Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction, after a jury trial, of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, third or subsequent offense, and possession of heroin and Furanylfentanyl with the intent to distribute, third or subsequent offense, holding that Rule 3A:15 does not preclude a trial court from timely reconsidering a motion to strike.At issue in this appeal was whether Rule 3A:15 or the Double Jeopardy Clause restricts a trial court's authority to reconsider a motion to strike that the trial court granted in error. The court of appeals concluded that, once a court grants a motion to strike, the court is foreclosed from reconsidering its decision under Rule 3A:15, which requires the court to enter an order of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Rule 3A:15 does not prevent a court from reconsidering its ruling on a motion to strike; and (2) the Double Jeopardy Clause restricts a court's authority to reconsider a motion to strike, but those limitations were not implicated in this case. View "Commonwealth v. McBride" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions of three counts of aggravated sexual battery by a parent under Va. Code 18.2-67.3 and four counts of taking indecent liberties with a child under Va. Code 18.2-370.1 but vacated the portion of the court of appeals' opinion deciding that Laurie Lee's proffered testimony provided Defendant with an alibi, holding that the court erred in part.In affirming Defendant's convictions the court of appeals defined alibi as a defense based on the physical impossibility of committing a crime and held that Lee's proffered testimony served as an alibi because it placed Defendant outside of the room where the offenses occurred. The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the opinion deciding that the proffered testimony provided Defendant with an alibi but affirmed the otherwise affirmed, holding that the court of appeals erred in ruling on the merits of this case because Defendant waived his challenge that the proffered testimony was offered for impeachment. View "Moison v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in this real property dispute, holding that the escheat provision of Va. Code 58.1-3967, as applied to the factual circumstances of this case, violated Va. Const. art. I, 11.The City of Richmond obtained a judicial sale of a parcel of property that was subject to a statutory lien for delinquent taxes. The circuit court confirmed the sale and directed that the City's lien for delinquent taxes, along with its costs and legal fees, be fully paid by the purchase proceeds. Although the sale proceeds satisfied the tax lien, the circuit court concluded that section 58.1-3967 required it to award a portion of the surplus sale proceeds to the City instead of an unsatisfied junior lienor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, as applied to this particular case, section 58.1-3967 unconstitutionally authorized the City to take the proceeds and keep them for itself. View "McKeithen v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) failed timely to release him from prison because it under-calculated his earned sentence credits (ESCs), holding that the circuit court did not err.In his habeas corpus petition, Appellant argued that he was entitled to enhanced ESCs under the General Assembly's 2020 amendments to Va. Code 53-1-202.3 as set forth in House Bill 5148 (HB 5148). The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to immediate release because he was precluded from earning enhanced ESCs for time served prior to July 1, 2022. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was not eligible to receive enhanced ESCs under HB 5148. View "Anderson v. Clarke" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the sanctions order entered by the trial court against Joseph Monroe for pursuing a shareholder-derivative suit against his wife, Lisa Monroe, the majority shareholder of a closely held corporation, holding that the sections order violated Rule 1:1.Lisa and Joseph were the married co-owners of MEPCO Materials, Inc. One week after Joseph, as the then-sole director, filed for divorce he caused MEPCO to filed a civil action against Lisa for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty. After Joseph resigned his position at MEPCO he sought to convert the action to a shareholder-derivative action. The granted the motions, converted the suit to a derivative action, and then dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Thereafter, the trial court granted Lisa's motion for sanctions and ordered Joseph to pay $70,097 to MEPCO and Lisa. The Supreme Court vacated the order granting sanctions, holding (1) Joseph had standing to appeal the sanctions award; but (2) the sanctions order violated Rule 1:1 because it was not timely entered. View "Monroe v. Monroe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus and issued the writ directed to the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections ordering that Petitioner be released from custody, holding that Petitioner was entitled to relief on his claim that he was wrongfully denied earned sentence credits on his convictions for attempted murder that, if awarded, would result in his immediate release from incarceration.In his habeas corpus petition, Petitioner argued that he was wrongfully denied earned sentence credits on his convictions for attempted aggravated murder. Specifically, Petitioner argued that the Virginia Department of Corrections misinterpreted Va. Code 53.1-202.3(A) and, as a result, miscalculated his release date. The Supreme Court agreed, granted Petitioner's petition, and ordered that Petitioner be released from custody, holding that Petitioner established that he was entitled to relief. View "Prease v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult causing serious injury, holding that the trial court, sitting as fact-finder, rationally determined that Defendant's abuse and neglect of her mother caused the mother to suffer a "serious bodily injury" under Va. Code 18.2-369(B).Defendant's mother required emergency medical care and hospitalization after lying in a squalid condition on the floor of her apartment for at least two days. The Commonwealth charged Defendant under section 18.2-369(B) and, after a trial, the court found Defendant guilty of the abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult causing serious injury. On appeal, Defendant argued that no rational fact-finder could conclude that her mother's bedsores constituted "serious bodily injury" under section 18.2-369(B)-(C). The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that a rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant's mother suffered a "serious bodily injury" under section 18.2-369(C). View "Tomlin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution does not require a court to pre-screen eyewitness identification testimony before the eyewitness can be permitted to make an identification of the defendant for the first time in open court.Defendant was indicted on four counts of robbery and four counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for robbing a bank. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted and sentenced to forty-five years' imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) due process did not compel the circuit court to pre-screen the identification at issue when that identification was made for the first time in court; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Defendant's identification was more probative than prejudicial; and (3) Defendant was properly convicted of a second or subsequent offense of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. View "Walker v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendants, five members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, knowingly and willfully violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), holding that the circuit court erred by granting Defendants' motion to strike.Plaintiffs, residents of Prince William County, filed a petition for mandamus and injunctive alleging that Defendants violated VFOIA by attending a meeting as defined by VFOIA without complying with statutory requirements. At the conclusion of Plaintiffs' evidence the circuit court granted Defendants' motion to strike on the grounds that the gathering did not constitute a meeting under VFOIA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in granting the motion to strike. View "Gloss v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court entering summary judgment favor of Eastern Shore Community Services Board (ESCSB) and holding that Oreze Healthcare LLC's conveyance of real property to a third party prohibited Oreze from pursuing its breach of contract claim against ESCSB, holding that ESCSB was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.ESCSB and Oreze entered into a commercial lease agreement under which ESCSB agreed to lease the four buildings comprising an assisted living facility whose license had been suspended and to provide interim care to its residents until a permanent solution was reached. When water damaged the buildings and no remedy was reached before ESCSB terminated the lease Oreze brought this complaint for breach of contract. While the lawsuit was pending, Oreze conveyed the property to a third party by general warranty deed. The circuit court granted summary judgment for ESCSB, ruling that Oreze failed to reserve its claims in the deed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the deed did not extinguish or transfer Oreze's right to sue ESCSB for property damage arising from an alleged breach of the lease. View "Oreze Healthcare v. Eastern Shore Community Services Bd." on Justia Law