Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In this appeal from a state employee grievance proceeding, a hearing officer’s decision upholding the termination of Nathan Osborn, a special agent with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), was not contrary to law. ABC terminated Osburn’s employment after receiving a complaint that Osburn rummaged, without permission, through the business records of a business owner who had applied for a retail alcohol license. A hearing officer upheld Osburn’s termination, concluding that the warrantless search was not permissible, resulting in a violation of the applicant’s constitutional rights. The circuit court upheld the hearing officer’s determination. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s determination that Osborn violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Osburn’s warrantless inspection of the office of the applicant’s business was not permissible under the highly regulated industry exception to the warrant requirement and that the business owner did not consent to Osburn’s warrantless search of the office. View "Osburn v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Appellant’s petition to change his name. Appellant, Brian Wendall Jordan, was serving a term of incarceration when he underwent a religious conversion. Appellant filed a petition to change his name to Abdul-Wakeel Mutawakkil Jordan, adding that he would not be hindered from the free exercise of his religion if not allowed to change his name. The circuit court found that Appellant’s application frustrated a legitimate law-enforcement purpose and, thus, the provisions of Va. Code 8.01-217(D) were not satisfied. Specifically, the court concluded that, due to the gravity and brutality of Defendant’s crimes, Defendant must retain his given name for the peace of mind of the victims and the victims’ families. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the basis articulated by the trial court for denying Appellant’s petition did not fall outside the scope of its broad discretion. View "Jordan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Shin was arrested for DWI. Shin declined the arresting officer's demand that he provide a blood and breath sample. The officer then read Form DC-233, “Implied Consent Declaration” to Shin, Code 18.2-268.3(C), which stated: “You shall submit to a breath test. If the breath test is unavailable or you are physically unable to submit to the breath test, a blood test shall be given.” Shin refused to provide a sample and signed a “Declaration of Refusal,” stating that he had been advised of the law and the penalty for unreasonably refusing to provide samples. Shin was convicted of DWI - second offense, unreasonable refusal of a breath or blood test - first offense, and improper lane change. A jury subsequently acquitted Shin of DWI but convicted him of improper lane change. The circuit court found Shin’s refusal unreasonable, in violation of Code 18.2-268.3, and suspended Shin’s license for one year. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, rejecting Shin’s arguments that the implied consent law imposed an unconstitutional condition upon the privilege of driving, was unconstitutionally vague for lacking an objective definition of reasonable refusal, and violated Article I, section 8 of the Virginia Constitution by compelling him to provide the Commonwealth with potentially incriminatory evidence. View "Shin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Pijor was found guilty of perjury, Code 18.2-434, based on testimony Pijor gave during a larceny trial in which he was acquitted. Pijor, having testified that he had not taken his ex-girlfriend’s dog, was later found to be in possession of the dog. Pijor claimed he had found the dog after the trial. The Court of Appeals rejected Pijor’s arguments that the Commonwealth was collaterally estopped from indicting him for perjury due to his previous acquittal and that the evidence was insufficient to prove he committed perjury. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed. Pijor failed to prove that the precise issue of fact he sought to preclude--that he had not seen and had no information about the dog-- was determined in the larceny trial. A rational factfinder could have found all of the necessary elements for the crime of perjury established beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Pijor v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether evidence of a search must be suppressed under Va. Code 19.2-54 because a magistrate incorrectly faxed only portions of a search warrant to the clerk of the circuit court. Defendant was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the magistrate’s failure to properly fax the search warrant to the clerk’s office rendered the warrant invalid. The trial court agreed that the warrant was defective but denied the suppression motion on the ground that the search was justified by exigent circumstances. The court of appeals reversed, arguing that section 19.2-54 rendered the fruits of the search inadmissible as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s order of conviction, holding that, even assuming that the magistrate’s incomplete faxing rendered the search warrant invalid under section 19.2-54, the search was justified as a warrantless search under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. View "Commonwealth v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals regarding its ruling on the law of the case doctrine but affirmed its judgment regarding its rulings on the admission of certain strip search evidence and Defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. Defendant was indicted for possession with the intent to distribute. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from a strip search. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress the evidence recovered from the strip search on the grounds that it violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court of appeals reversed the grant of the motion to suppress. After Defendant was convicted, he appealed. The court of appeals concluded (1) its review of its ruling on the motion to suppress and the constitutionality of the strip search was precluded by the law of the case doctrine; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to uphold Defendant’s conviction. Although the Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals was authorized to reconsider the constitutionality of the strip search and the admissibility of the strip search evidence on direct appeal; and (2) the court of appeals’ did not err in its rulings on the admission of the strip search evidence and Defendant’s conviction. View "Cole v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the State Corporation Commission upholding the constitutionality of Va. Code 56-585.1:1, which suspended the Commission’s biennial base rate reviews for Appalachian Power Company (APCO) and Virginia Electric and Power Company, d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power (Dominion Power) until the years 2020 and 2021, respectively. Appellants - Old Dominion Committee for Fair Utility Rates, VML/VACO APCO Steering Committee and Karen Torrent - appealed. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that section 56-585.1:1 is constitutional under Va. Const. art. IX, 2 because article IX, section 2 does not prohibit the general assembly from suspending the Commission’s biennial base rate reviews. View "Old Dominion Committee for Fair Utility Rates v. State Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court directing the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to produce student growth percentile (SGP) data for certain Loudoun County Public School students under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The Supreme Court held (1) as a matter of law, SGP data constitutes teacher performance indicators; and (2) SGPs are confidential under Va. Code 22.1-295.1(C) because the information in the SGPs disclose identifiable teacher information. Therefore, the circuit court erred in ordering the production of these documents containing teachers’ identifiable information. The court remanded the issue of attorney’s fees for determination in light of the holding in favor of the VDOE on appeal. View "Virginia Education Ass’n v. Davison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling favor of Loudoun County on Dulles Duty Free, LLC’s challenge to the County’s imposition of a business, professional, and occupational license (BPOL) tax on a substantial potion of Duty Free’s sales. Specifically, the circuit court concluded that the Import-Export Clause of the United States Constitution did not bar the County from imposing the BPOL tax. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the BPOL tax as applied to Duty Free’s export goods in transit constitutes an impermissible impost upon an export in violation of the Import-Export Clause of the United States Constitution. View "Dulles Duty Free, LLC v. County of Loudoun" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Clerks of court are statutorily designated custodians of court records, and therefore, The Daily Press must make its request to each jurisdiction’s clerk of court for certain court records rather than to the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia (Executive Secretary). The Daily Press made a request to the Executive Secretary under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act asking for a searchable version of a database hosted on servers operated and housed at the Executive Secretary’s offices. The Executive Secretary reached out to the individual clerks whose information it hosted to request permission to provide this information to The Daily Press. More than half of the clerks objected. The Daily Press then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the Executive Secretary to honor the request. The trial court denied the petition for mandamus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that court clerks were the expressly designated custodians of the public records sought by The Daily Press. View "Daily Press, LLC v. Office of Executive Secretary of Supreme Court of Virginia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law