Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Through mediation efforts in connection with a federal lawsuit pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Respondent, the Honorable J. Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma, negotiated and entered into new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes to increase state gaming revenues. The tribal gaming compacts were submitted to the United States Department of the Interior, and the Department of the Interior deemed them approved by inaction, only to the extent they were consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes were not parties to this matter; these tribes were sovereign nations and have not submitted to the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The limited question presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court was whether Governor Stitt had the authority to bind the State with respect to the new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes. To this, the Supreme Court held he did not. The tribal gaming compacts Governor Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes authorized certain forms of Class III gaming, including house-banked card and table games and event wagering. Any gaming compact to authorize Class III gaming had to be validly entered into under state law, and it was Oklahoma law that determined whether the compact was consistent with the IGRA. The tribal gaming compacts Governor Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes were invalid under Oklahoma law. The State of Oklahoma was not and could not be legally bound by those compacts until such time as the Legislature enacted laws to allow the specific Class III gaming at issue, and in turn, allowing the Governor to negotiate additional revenue. View "Treat v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff School districts located in Midwest City/Del City, Enid, Ponca City, and Oklahoma City filed an action alleging they received insufficient State Aid payments for the years 1992-2014. The named defendants were: the Superintendent of Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE); the Oklahoma Tax Commission; and (3) the Oklahoma State Treasurer. Plaintiffs sought writs of mandamus to compel defendants to demand and recoup excessive State Aid payments made to other school districts, and then pay the correct apportionments to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs sought summary judgment, and intervenors, school districts in Tulsa County, sought summary judgment against plaintiffs. The district court granted intervenors' motion for summary judgment and concluded the defendants did not have a duty to seek repayment of excessive State Aid payments made to other schools until an audit was performed by auditors approved by the State Auditor and Inspector. Plaintiffs appealed and after review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the audit used by the State Board of Education when demanding repayment must be performed by auditors approved by the State Auditor and Inspector. A school district possesses a legal right to a proper apportionment of State Aid regardless of excessive payments made to other districts. A school district lacked a cognizable legal interest and standing in a claim to compel the State Board of Education to fund a lapsed appropriation. Plaintiffs' filings raised the issue of their standing to judicially compel legislative appropriations; standing would have to be adjudicated on remand. View "Independent School District # 52 v. Hofmeister" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, the Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed for submission to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 was challenged in two separate cases. On February 4, 2020, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down its decisions in both matters. Two days later, February 6, 2020, the proponents of IP 420 filed a new initiative petition (Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question 810). The Secretary of State published the required notice of the initiative petition on February 13, 2020. Initiative Petition No. 426 (IP 426) was nearly identical to IP 420, creating a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). Like IP 420, it would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. Initiative Petition No. 426, like IP 420, requires the Commission's Secretary to gather information from the Department of Corrections about the home address of state and federal inmates and add this information to the Federal Decennial Census data so that incarcerated people can be counted in their home communities rather than place of incarceration. The issue presented to the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction involved the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question No. 810. The Petitioners contended the petition was unconstitutional because it violated Article 1, section 2, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held Petitioners did not meet their burden to show Initiative Petition No. 426 contained "clear or manifest facial constitutional infirmities." On the grounds alleged, the petition is legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "In re: Initiative Petition No. 426 State Question No. 810" on Justia Law

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In 2010, plaintiff-appellant James Payne pled nolo contendere to stalking in Case No. CF-2010-27 in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. He received a five-year deferment with special rules and conditions of probation. He was required to have no contact with the stalking victim. In addition, Payne pled guilty to violating a protective order in many other cases filed in Pittsburg County related to the same victim and was sentenced to six months in the county jail. The sentences were to run concurrently. He received extra credits and was released from custody on May 5, 2010. A month later, on June 10, 2010, the district attorney filed a motion to accelerate the deferred judgment for probation violations, alleging Payne had been contacting and harassing the victim. The district court issued a felony warrant and Payne was arrested and booked into jail by the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office on June 11, 2010. Payne did not post bail and remained in the county jail. The district court ultimately executed a minute order finding Payne guilty of violating the terms of his deferred sentence, for which he received a five year sentence: four suspended and one year to serve in the Department of Corrections. Payne received credit for time served in the county jail since his June 10 arrest. The Judgment and Sentence ordered Payne into DOC custody and directed the Pittsburg Sheriff's office to transfer Payne to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center to begin serving his time in DOC custody. The Sheriff's Office of Pittsburg County did not transfer Payne to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (LARC) until September 6, 2011, almost three months past the end of his sentence. Payne was released that same day without serving any of his time in DOC custody. Payne sue various Pittsburg county corrections and governmental officials, arguing his constitutional rights had been violated because he remained in custody beyond his sentence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari on the remaining issue preserved for review, i.e., whether a private right of action under Article 2 Section 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution existed under the facts of this case. The Court held a private right of action existed at the time Payne was detained past his sentence, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Payne v. Kerns" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Shelli Farley, a surviving spouse of a former City of Claremore fireman, successfully obtained a death benefits award in the Workers' Compensation Commission. She then brought a District Court action for damages alleging the death of her spouse was caused by negligence and an intentional tort committed by her spouse's employer who was a local government entity. She argued her action was also for the benefit of her surviving child, as well as the surviving parents and brother of the deceased. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record, that a tort action for damages suffered by a surviving spouse, surviving child, and parents of a deceased adult child did not survive for the purpose of a 12 O.S. 1053 wrongful death action when: (1) The wrongful death action arises from an injury compensable by an exclusive workers' compensation remedy and the tort action is brought against the employer of the deceased; and (2) the employer can claim sovereign immunity. In this case, the wrongful death injury was adjudicated and compensated by a successful workers' compensation claim after the death of the decedent. This successful adjudication demonstrated the decedent's injury was exclusively before the Commission and not cognizable as a District Court claim at the time of decedent's death. The parents' action for loss of companionship damages was extinguished at the time of decedent's death and did not survive. And the City was immune from suit because the tort claim against it was for liability for an injury properly compensated by a claim before the Workers' Compensation Commission. The brother of the deceased did not possess a wrongful death § 1053 action for loss of consortium. Furthermore, the Court concluded plaintiff lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. Dismissal of this case was affirmed. View "Farley v. City of Claremore" on Justia Law

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Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed to submit to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. IP 420 would also repeal current constitutional provisions concerning state legislative apportionment. Notice of the filing was published on October 31, 2019; within 10 business days, Petitioners Rogers Gaddis and Eldon Merklin petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction to challenge the legal sufficiency of IP 420. They alleged the proposed amendment by article suffered from two fatal constitutional defects: (1) the single subject rule, and (2) the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In case number 118405, the Supreme Court determined IP was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. In case number 118406, however, the Court determined the gist statement of IP 420 did not fairly describe the proposed amendment, and ordered it struck from the ballot. View "In re: Initiative Petition 420, State Question No. 804" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma Senate Bill 608 mandated that manufacturers of the top 25 brands of liquor and wine sell their product to all licensed wholesalers. Appellees, a group of liquor and wine wholesalers, manufacturers, retail liquor stores, and consumers, challenged Senate Bill 608 as unconstitutional, contending it was in conflict with Okla. Const. art. 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. The district court agreed and ruled Senate Bill 608 unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held SB 608 was "clearly, palpably, and plainly inconsistent" with Article 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. Furthermore, the Court ruled that SB 608 was not a proper use of legislative authority as Article 28A, section 2(A)(2) was not in conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution's anticompetitive provisions. The district court, therefore, did not err by granting Distributors' Motion for Summary Judgment and ruling SB 608 unconstitutional. View "Institute For Responsible Alcohol Policy v. Oklahoma ex rel. Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm." on Justia Law

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Video Gaming Technologies, Inc. (VGT), appeals from the district court's grant of Tulsa County Assessor's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. VGT brought a claim for relief from assessment of ad valorem taxes. The Tulsa County Assessor moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as VGT had not paid the past-due taxes pursuant to 68 O.S.2011 section 2884. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined the underlying question to this case was whether title 68, section 2884 applied to appeals from the Board of Tax Roll Corrections pursuant to title 68, section 2871. The Court concluded title 68, section 2884 did not apply to appeals pursuant to title 68, section 2871: "Timely payment of taxes is not a jurisdictional prerequisite for appeals from orders of the Board of Tax Roll Corrections. The district court erred in finding it did not have jurisdiction." Therefore, the Court reversed the order of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Video Gaming Technologies v. Tulsa County Bd. of Tax Roll Corrections" on Justia Law

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Video Gaming Technologies, Inc. ("VGT") contended the district court improperly granted summary judgment to the Rogers County Board of Tax Roll Collections ("Board"), the Rogers County Treasurer, and the Rogers County Assessor. VGT is a non-Indian Tennessee corporation authorized to do business in Oklahoma. VGT owns and leases electronic gaming equipment to Cherokee Nation Entertainment, LLC (CNE), a business entity of Nation. Nation was a federally-recognized Indian tribe headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. CNE owned and operated ten gaming facilities on behalf of Nation. The questions presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court was whether the district court properly denied VGT's motion for summary judgment and properly granted County's counter-motion for summary judgment. VGT argued that taxation of its gaming equipment was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) because the property was located on tribal trust land under a lease to Nation for use in its gaming operations. The County argued that ad valorem taxation was justified to ensure integrity and uniform application of tax law. Due to the comprehensive nature of IGRA's regulations on gaming, the federal policies which would be threatened, and County's failure to justify the tax other than as a generalized interest in raising revenue, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that ad valorem taxation of gaming equipment here was preempted, and reversed the order of summary judgment, and remanded for the district court to enter an appropriate order of summary judgment for VGT. View "Video Gaming Technologies v. Rogers County Bd. of Tax Roll Corrections" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the Oklahoma Supreme Court addressed whether a claim of intentional interference with a prospective economic business advantage required a showing of bad faith, and whether the immunity protections provided by 36 O.S. Supp. 2012 section 363 were forfeited under the alleged facts. Plaintiff-appellant Lisa Loven, a general contractor who applied for a public adjuster license with the Oklahoma Department of Insurance (the Department), disclosed that a former client sued her for acting as an unlicensed adjuster. The Department opened an investigation and subsequently denied her application. Loven appealed. During the appeal hearing Church Mutual Insurance and its adjuster Jeffrey Hanes provided information regarding their dealings with Loven as a general contractor when she contracted for storm repair work for two churches they insured. The appellate hearing officer affirmed the denial of her application as a public adjuster because she had illegally acted as an unlicensed public adjuster. Loven sued Church Mutual and Hanes for intentional interference with a prospective economic business advantage. The trial court granted summary judgment to Church Mutual and Hanes because 36 O.S. Supp. 2012 section 363 provided civil tort immunity to insurers who provide any information of fraudulent conduct to the Department. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court held: (1) 36 O.S. Supp. 2012 section 363 provided immunity for those who report or provide information regarding suspected insurance fraud as long as they, themselves, do not act fraudulently, in bad faith, in reckless disregard for the truth, or with actual malice in providing the information; and (2) the alleged tort of intentional interference with a prospective economic business advantage required a showing of bad faith. Because no proffered evidence in this case showed bad faith, the immunity provisions of 36 O.S. Supp. 2012 section 363 applied, and summary judgment was proper. View "Loven v. Church Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law