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Case summaries for Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2024


Each week, The Missouri Bar provides links to all hand downs published online during the past seven days by the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Missouri Bar has created headings and summaries for each case. Summaries are not part of the opinions of the Court. They have been prepared for the convenience of the reader and should not be quoted or cited.

Appellate | Constitutional | Criminal | Family | Real Estate | Tax


Judgment affirmed on unchallenged basis
Medicaid provider plaintiff was barred from reimbursement by an appropriations bill. In an action for declaratory judgment and injunction, challenging the constitutionality of an appropriations bill, plaintiff prevailed on defendant’s procedural defenses: lack of standing, waiver, exhaustion of administrative remedies; and plaintiff’s two constitutional theories: the single subject requirement for legislative bills and equal protection. As to standing, Defendant’s decision to deny plaintiff’s claim for payment showed a direct and immediate interest at stake. As to waiver, the parties’ Medicaid provider agreement provision on deficient funds did not constitute an “unequivocal, plain, and clear” waiver of relief for any other reason. As to administrative remedies, none need be exhausted when the relief could not be granted in an administrative tribunal, like a ruling on a legislative bill’s constitutionality. As to the single subject requirement and equal protection clause, defendant challenged the former but not the latter, so the latter remained an independent and unchallenged basis for the judgment, so the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the judgment.
(Overview Summary)
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, et al., Respondents, vs. Robert Knodell, in his official capacity as Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, et al., Appellants.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC99966

Artificial intelligence brief sanctioned
Preservation of issues required compliance with rules of appellate procedure, including rules that governed briefing. After opportunities to correct deficiencies, appellant’s brief failed to comply with rules on the appendix, statement of facts, points relied on, table of contents, and table of cases. “More egregiously,” appellant’s citations to authority consisted of “artificial intelligence hallucinations [,]” which either did not support the propositions for which appellant cited them, or were entirely fictitious. An appeal that was not at least fairly debatable was frivolous and constituted “an abuse of the adversary system.” That pro se appellant did not draft the brief, but retained a California consultant who drafted the brief by generative artificial intelligence, does not alter the burden that the brief caused to the respondent and the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals grants Respondent’s motion to strike and awards attorney fees against appellant. 
(Overview Summary)
Molly Kruse, Respondent, vs. Jonathan R. Karlen, et al., Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED111172


Senate redistricting map okay
Missouri Constitution provided for a redistricting of Senate districts by a citizens’ commission or a judicial commission according to listed factors. One factor may yield to another. Compact districts may be determined by geometry and have priority over preserving community boundaries. Residents of a community allegedly unconstitutionally split have standing to challenge a redistricting plan as to their districts. The Missouri Constitution required that the commission that authored the plan was a defendant, but that commission was not a necessary or indispensable party when the Secretary of State was also a party, and the commission’s reasoning was not subject to discovery because only the result counted. Appellate jurisdiction is exclusive to the Missouri Supreme Court. Appellants failed to preserve challenges to: the standard employed in the circuit court’s judgment by filing a motion to amend; compliance with equal protection by failing to raise that challenge at the earliest opportunity.
(Overview Summary)  
Clara Faatz, et al., Appellants, v. John Ashcroft, Missouri Secretary of State, Respondent.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC100277


Co-conspirator’s hearsay admissible
The Confrontation Clause and the rule against hearsay were separate theories for the exclusion of evidence, so combining them in a single point relied on made that point multifarious. But appellant abandoned the Confrontation Clause theory, so the Court of Appeals addressed the challenge to hearsay. Hearsay is admissible if the declarant is a co-conspirator, even if uncharged, and the declaration furthered the conspiracy. That includes statements made after the conspired offense’s completion about efforts to evade prosecution. Evidence that defendant had a probation and parole officer was legally irrelevant as evidence of an uncharged crime. But it was brief, vague, not repeated, and the subject of a curative instruction, so it did not require a mistrial. The evidence supported the convictions.
(Overview Summary) 
State of Missouri vs. Sadiq Jamario Moore
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85834

Stealing conviction downgraded on value of stolen vehicle
On a charge class D felony stealing over $750 in value, the State must show the market or replacement value of the stolen property. The State showed that defendant stole a 2013 Toyota Rav4, but nothing about the vehicle’s condition except: it could go forward at low speed for one mile and had a functioning front driver’s side door, brakes, and headlights. That evidence did not establish any market or replacement value even by implication. Remanded to re-sentence for class A misdemeanor stealing. 
(Overview Summary)  
State of Missouri vs. Louis J. Watts
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84952

Knowing and intelligent Miranda waiver shown
Defendant challenged the admission of evidence obtained during a custodial interrogation, alleging an altered mental state. That allegation placed a burden on the State to show a valid waiver of Miranda rights, including that the waiver was “knowing and intelligent, meaning it was made in full awareness of the rights being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon them.” The State showed that defendant’s statements were mostly coherent, and defendant did not show any mental incapacity, so the totality of the circumstances showed a knowing and intelligent waiver. The State provided the foundation necessary for admitting a recording from defendant’s cell phone and, even if it did not, defendant showed no prejudice because the recording was cumulative of overwhelming evidence that showed defendant’s guilt. 
(Overview Summary)
State of Missouri, Respondent, vs. Christopher L. Gates, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED111130


Findings on child’s best interest explained
In an action to terminate parental rights, statutes required the State to show a statutory ground for termination and required the circuit court to make written findings of fact on those grounds. The statutes also required the State to show that termination was in the child’s best interests according to statutory factors and required the circuit court to make written findings of fact on those factors. The statutes further set forth policy considerations to guide statutory construction but did not require the circuit court’s written findings of fact on the child’s best interests to address those policy considerations. Because no such findings were required, the circuit court did not err in omitting such findings from its judgment. 
(Overview Summary) 
In the Interest of: E.R.; Children's Division vs. A.G.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD86297

Real Estate

Deed conveyed flowage easement 
Fee is ownership for all purposes. An easement is a right to use land only for specified purposes. Purposes listed in a deed showed that the deed conveys an easement rather than fee. A deed’s premise clause, specifically stating that the conveyance was “for lake purposes” and “retaining” certain rights, granted a flowage easement to respondent’s predecessor. That unambiguous language prevailed over language in the deed’s habendum clause that is sometimes used to convey a fee simple, and excluded evidence of an earlier conveyance that used other language to create a flowage easement. Summary judgment for respondent reversed. 
Michael A. Predovic, Marilyn M. Predovic, Paul R. Etheridge, Elizabeth A. Etheridge, Timbermill Homeowners Association, Appellants vs. The Empire District Electric Co., and Chuck Pennell, Assessor, Taney County, Missouri, Respondents
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37922


No discriminatory assessment shown
Constitutional provisions bar discrimination in taxation, intentional or not, including by undervaluation of real properties. Whether intentional undervaluation, or a plan of intentional discrimination, occurred depends on actual values used, including revised valuations found by the Board of Equalization, and the State Tax Commission. Taxpayers did not show any abuse of discretion in the State Tax Commission’s hearing officer’s discovery rulings: senior staff may have better knowledge than the Assessor, delays in seeking discovery did not require delaying the hearing. The Commission’s findings had support in the record as to whether increases in sales prices significantly distorted the valuation of unsold properties, whether to use a median appraisal level instead of a value-weighted mean to determine that the occurrence of regressivity was within tolerance, and whether any disparity between the common and taxpayer levels of assessment were grossly disparate.
(Overview Summary)     
Crown Diversified Industries Corp., et al., Respondents, v. Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC100219