by
The superior court terminated a father’s parental rights to his son, finding that the child was in need of aid because of abandonment, neglect, and the father’s incarceration and that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) had satisfied its statutory obligation to make reasonable efforts to reunify parent and child. The father appealed, arguing these findings were unsupported by the evidence. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the father: the record showed he initiated efforts to visit the child, who was already in OCS custody, as soon as he learned of his possible paternity; that during the father’s subsequent incarceration he had visitation as often as OCS was able to provide it; and that OCS never created a case plan to direct the father’s efforts toward reunification. The Supreme Court concluded it was clear error to find that the child was in need of aid and that OCS made reasonable efforts toward reunification, and reversed the termination decision. View "Duke S. v. Alaska, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

by
Two young siblings were removed from their biological parents’ home and placed with a foster family. The maternal biological grandparents remained involved in the children’s lives and sought to adopt them, as did the foster parents. The grandparents and foster parents entered into a formal settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the ultimate adoption decree. Under the agreement the grandparents waived their right to pursue adoption in exchange for several specific guarantees and assurances, including that the foster parents would comply with a visitation agreement and facilitate a relationship between the children and the grandparents. When the grandparents were later denied post-adoption visitation, they moved to enforce the agreement and then to vacate the adoption. The superior court vacated the adoption after finding that the foster parents made material misrepresentations throughout the pre-adoption process, including specific misrepresentations about their intent to comply with the visitation and relationship agreement. The superior court placed the children back in state custody to determine a suitable adoptive placement. The foster parents appealed, arguing that the grandparents’ sole remedy was enforcement of the visitation agreement. The Alaska Supreme Court found that an adoption could be vacated due to material misrepresentations, and because the adoptive parents did not challenge the court’s factual finding that they never intended to comply with the settlement agreement’s visitation and relationship provisions, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision vacating the adoption. View "In Re Adoption of E.H. and J.H." on Justia Law

by
Steven Levi appealed a superior court decision affirming a Department of Labor and Workforce Development order requiring him to repay several months of unemployment insurance benefits plus interest and penalties because he under-reported his weekly income while receiving benefits. Based on a Department handbook, Levi argued he was not required to report his wages unless he earned more than $50 per day. The Alaska Supreme Court determined Levi’s reading of the handbook was unreasonable. Nonetheless, the governing statute required a reduction in benefits whenever a claimant’s wages were more than $50 per week. Levi made other arguments, but the Court found no merit to any of them. The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Levi v. State, Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

by
In consolidated appeals, Randolph Clay Cooper ("Clay") appealed two summary judgments entered in favor of his siblings, Garland Terrance Cooper ("Terry") and Rebecca Cooper Bonner ("Becky"). Case no. 1170270 concerned a petition for letters of administration for the estate of Carol Evans Cooper ("Mrs. Cooper"), who was their mother. Case no. 1170271 concerned Clay's petition to distribute any assets remaining in a trust created by the will of their father, Nolan P. Cooper ("Mr. Cooper"). After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined summary judgment was appropriate in Case no. 1170270, but that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in 1170271: in the 2012 litigation regarding the administration of his mother’s estate, Clay attempted to sue Becky in her capacity as "administratrix of the will and/or estate of Carol Evans Cooper," among other capacities. However, that attempt was ineffective because no administration of Mrs. Cooper's estate had yet been commenced and no estate administrator was appointed until after the 2012 litigation had concluded on October 1, 2014. The parties in the two cases were not the same or substantially identical (letters of administration had been previously granted to Harry D’Olive, Jr.), and the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of Becky and Terry based on their argument that the administration of Mrs. Cooper's estate was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. View "Cooper v. Cooper" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, Jeremy Gowan filed this action against Cavalier Home Builders, LLC, d/b/a Buccaneer Homes ("Buccaneer"), Minton Industries, Inc. ("Minton"), Monster Movers, LLC ("Monster Movers"), Jerry Dudley, and Britt Richards. Buccaneer, Dudley, Richards, and Minton moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement Gowan had signed relating to the sale of a manufactured home. Although Monster Movers was not a party to the arbitration agreement, Gowan's claims against Monster Movers were submitted to arbitration by consent of the parties. While the arbitration proceeding was pending, Monster Movers entered into a joint dismissal with Gowan. The case proceeded to arbitration against the remaining defendants. In 2017, the arbitrator issued an award in favor of Gowan and against Buccaneer in the amount of $10,000. As to Gowan's claims against all other remaining defendants, the award was adverse to Gowan. Gowan appealed the award to the circuit court on the basis that the award was insufficient against Buccaneer. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court deviated from the procedure for the appeal of an arbitration award established by Rule 71B, Ala. R. Civ. P. The issue raised in the mandamus petition was made moot, and the Supreme Court declined further review. View "Ex parte Cavalier Home Builders, LLC, d/b/a Buccaneer Homes." on Justia Law

by
Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. ("Nationwide") and The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. ("Hartford") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to rule on their pending motion for a change of venue from Marshall County to Morgan County. In this case, by deferring its ruling on venue until the pretrial hearing, the trial court effectively required that Nationwide and Hartford complete discovery, prepare dispositive and other pretrial motions, mediate the case, and prepare for trial before it would resolve the venue question. Under these facts, the Supreme Court’s analysis in Ex parte International Paper, ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2018) controlled. Venue is a threshold matter, and, "as a general rule, a trial court should rule on a motion alleging improper venue as expeditiously as possible." Accordingly, the Court issued the writ and directed the trial court to rule on Nationwide and Hartford's motion for a change of venue as soon as practicable. View "Ex parte Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. and The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
In this appeal from the court of appeals’ denial of a petition for mandamus relief from the trial court’s ruling on remand, the Supreme Court directed the trial court to render judgment for Castle Texas Production Limited Partnership with postjudgment interest accruing from the trial court’s final judgment issued in 2009 and further directed the trial court not to reopen the record in doing so, holding that the trial court exceeded its authority when it ordered the reopening of the record on remand. Four years ago, the Supreme Court clarified how to determine the accrual date for postjudment interest when a remand for further proceedings requires new evidence and then applied its holding to the facts before it in this case. On remand, the trial court indicated that the record must be reopened to determine postjudgment interest including the accrual period. Castle petitioned the court of appeals for mandamus relief, contending that the trial court exceed the scope of the Supreme Court’s mandate by indicating its intent to reopen the record. While the court of appeals concluded that the trial court’s decision to reopen the record was not inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s directive, the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court exceeded the scope of the mandate by reopening the record. View "In re Castle Texas Production Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking, inter alia, an order requiring the Appeals Court to accept his notice of appeal from its award of appellate attorney’s fees against him in the underlying litigation, holding that the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence under the statute. Petitioner filed a civil complaint that was eventually dismissed because of, inter alia, Petitioner’s multiple violations of interim court orders. The Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for failure to comply with the appellate rules. The Appeals Court affirmed. Petitioner then purported to appeal as a matter of right from the Appeals Court’s award of fees and double costs. The Appeals Court struck the notice of appeal, concluding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G, and because he could have applied for further appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court, the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence. View "Reznik v. Mendes" on Justia Law

by
In 1996, California voters adopted Proposition 218 (as approved by voters Gen. Elec. Nov. 5, 1996, eff. Nov. 6, 1996 [as of Nov. 14, 2018], archived at ) (Proposition 218) to add article XIII C to the California Constitution by which they expressly reserved their right to challenge local taxes, assessments, fees, and charges by initiative. At issue in this case was whether section 3 of article XIII C to the California Constitution silently repealed voters’ right to challenge by referendum the same local levies for which they expressly preserved their power of initiative. The City of Dunsmuir (City) rejected a referendum measure submitted by one its residents, Leslie Wilde. The City rejected the referendum even though there was no dispute Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot to repeal Resolution 2016-02 that established a new water rate master plan. The City’s concluded its resolution establishing new water rates was not subject to referendum, but only voter initiative. Wilde petitioned for a writ of mandate in superior court to place the referendum on the ballot. At the same time, Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to establish a different water rate plan. The trial court denied Wilde’s petition, and the City’s voters rejected Wilde’s initiative, Measure W. On appeal, Wilde contended the trial court erred in refusing to order the City to place her referendum on the ballot. The Court of Appeal concluded this appeal was not moot, and that the voters’ rejection of Wilde’s initiative water rate plan did not establish that the voters would necessarily have rejected Wilde’s referendum on the City’s water rate plan. On the merits, the Court concluded the voters’ adoption of Proposition 218 did not abridge voters’ right to challenge local resolutions and ordinances by referendum. The trial court erred in finding the City’s water rate plan was an administrative decision not subject to voter referendum. The resolution adopting an extensive water upgrade project funded by a new water rate plan was legislative in nature and therefore subject to voter referendum. View "Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir" on Justia Law

by
SI 59 appealed from a judgment of dismissal following a demurrer to its second amended complaint against defendants, as well as the post judgment award of attorney fees. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Civil Code section 1668 negates a contractual clause exempting a party from responsibility for fraud or a statutory violation only when all or some of the elements of the tort are concurrent or future events at the time the contract is signed. The court also held that section 1668 does not negate such a clause when all the elements are past events. The court explained that, regarding the element of damages, which is necessary for tort liability, this means that at least some form of economic or physical damage has occurred. In this case, the negligence claim was barred by the general release and the negligent misrepresentation claim was not pleaded with the requisite specificity. The court rejected the remaining arguments and held that the issue of attorney fees was moot. View "SI 59 LLC v. Variel Warner Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law