Case summaries for May 13 - May 19, 2022
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.
Unauthorized After-Trial Motion Discussed
Statute allows an appeal from any party to an action aggrieved by the final judgment. A judgment remains within the circuit court’s authority for 30 days after issuance and then becomes final. That 30 days extends on the filing of an authorized after-trial motion. And an authorized after-trial motion is deemed overruled when not ruled on. But after-trial motions are authorized only for the parties, so a motion to intervene can never be an authorized after-trial motion, leaving only the 30 post-judgment days for such a filing, and such a filing may not result in any ruling. Circuit court did not rule on appellant’s post-judgment motion to intervene, so appellant never became a party to the action in circuit court and is not aggrieved by the final judgment. Appeal dismissed.
Thomas Yuncker and Christopher Gutierrez vs. Dodds Logistics, LLC and Keith Dodds; Zurich American Insurance Company
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84645
Supreme Court Governs Circuit Consolidation
The Missouri Constitution invests the Missouri Supreme Court with supervisory authority, and associated inherent powers, over all other Missouri courts to the exclusion of conflicting statutes. Circuit clerks are agents of circuit courts. Missouri Supreme Court rules, prescribing the procedure for amending a circuit consolidation plan, control matters including the designation of an appointing authority. Circuit court orders issued and approved accordingly are binding. Because the Missouri Supreme Court already construed the controlling constitutional provisions, the Missouri Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to apply those provisions, and authority to enter the judgment that the circuit court should have entered accordingly.
Karla K. Allsberry, Individually and in her official capacity as the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Lincoln County, Missouri vs. The Honorable Steven R. Ohmer, et al.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84992 and WD85001
Convictions Affirmed for Harassment and Tampering with Parole Officer
Statutes provide that the elements of second-degree harassment include “to act ‘without good cause’ and with ‘the purpose to cause emotional distress [.]’” Those provisions apply to communications without implicating First Amendment protections because those provisions rely on purpose instead of subjective reaction, giving notice and a standard, and narrow the application to the unprotected activity of fighting words. Fighting words are outside constitutional protection even when delivered through Facebook, and not face-to-face, so defendant’s threats to his parole officer supported a conviction for the second-degree harassment. Those facts also supported a conviction for tampering with a judicial official, and a separate sentence for that offense was no more than the General Assembly intended, so it did not violate Double Jeopardy’s bar on cumulative sentencing. Second-degree harassment was not a lesser included offense of tampering with a judicial official because the test is not the facts alleged, but the elements of the statutes. The statutes have differing elements, so conviction of one does not necessarily constitute conviction of the other, taking them outside of Double Jeopardy.
State of Missouri, Respondent, vs. Joshua Steven Collins, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC99211
Evidence and Inferences Sufficient
Evidence and inferences are irrelevant on appeal when contrary to evidence favoring conviction, which included the following: defendant was arguing with someone; someone called out defendant’s name as someone matching defendant’s description started fighting with victim; defendant was standing over victim’s body; defendant walked calmly away from the scene; defendant lied about being present at the scene; defendant expressed no alarm that victim had been shot; and defendant resisted the testing that revealed gunpowder residue on his hand. On a motion to quash the subpoena of a juror, to question that juror about misconduct by non-disclosure, defendant’s conclusory allegation that defendant and juror knew each other did not support prevail. Remanded for an order nunc pro tunc to conform the written judgment to the judgment as spoken in open court.
State of Missouri vs. Jeffery Jerome Millens, Jr.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84274
Sole Custody Affirmed
A weight-of-the-evidence challenge requires appellant to identify all evidence supporting a finding of fact indispensable to the judgment, and failure to follow that analysis negates that challenge. Statutes prefer joint custody, legal and physical, and the parties’ parenting plan suggested joint custody. But neither of those control. The record includes evidence that the parties’ acrimony makes them unable to communicate and co-parent, so the judgment was not against weight of the evidence.
Jennifer Robin Moore vs. Jared Moore
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84782
Challenges to Vaccination Exemption Form Unsuccessful
“In Missouri, it is unlawful for any student to attend school unless he or she is properly immunized and can provide satisfactory evidence of such immunization or unless he or she is properly exempted.” Nothing requires the State to provide an exemption to a neutral and generally applicable mandate on religious grounds, but Missouri has elected to do so, through statutes providing that proper exemption is subject to regulations of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Those regulations require the use of a prescribed form. That regulation is within statutory authority, does not violate the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has a rational relationship to the State’s interest in preventing childhood disease, does not bar the expression of religious beliefs, and does not compel complicity in vaccination in violation of any constitutional provision. For plaintiff to state a claim against defendant, plaintiff must describe a justiciable controversy. A justiciable controversy in an action for declaratory judgment, bringing a pre-enforcement challenge to a provision of law, includes the defendant’s authority to enforce the challenged provision against the rights of the plaintiff. The plaintiffs did not allege that defendant local health authorities had any authority over, or made any attempt to enforce, the use of a form for exemption to vaccination requirements prescribed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the petition, affirmed.
Audrey Baker, et al. vs. Crossroads Academy-Central Street, et al.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD84941
Video Appearance Insufficient for Confrontation Clause
Confrontation Clauses protect the right to appear in person at a juvenile adjudication hearing because confinement may result and “generalized concerns about COVID-19 do not justify denying [that] constitutional right [.]” Reversed and remanded.
In the Interest of: I.J.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED109406
Association Had No Duty to Light Member’s Property
In an action for wrongful death, plaintiff alleged that decedent’s injuries were due to inadequate lighting on a neighbor’s property. The homeowners’ association had no duty to light the space because the facts did “not involve a condominium complex, a common area, a condominium association that assumed the role of landlord, violent criminal activity, or any other dangerous condition of which the association had been made aware before the incident.” Maintaining streetlights in common areas did not constitute assumption of a duty to light any other space. Because the association had no duty to light the space, the adequacy of such lighting was not material. The property inspector, for the neighbor’s purchase of the property, had no duty to decedent, because decedent was not a party to the property inspector’s contract with the neighbors. The property inspector’s settlement with plaintiff did not bind the property inspector’s insurer, and statutes expressly grant standing to the insurer to intervene and defend in an action against the property inspector, at least before a ruling on the settlement. The right to intervene negated plaintiff’s claim for tortious interference with the settlement even if properly pleaded by plaintiff. Dismissal of the negligence claim against the property inspector left the settlement unenforceable.
Michael Reddick, Appellant, v. Spring Lake Estates Homeowner's Association, Melvin Dockins, and Acuity, a Mutual Insurance Company, Respondents.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED109672