Case summaries for Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 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.
No Plain Error When Instruction Omitted
A criminal trial delayed by four years is presumptively prejudicial. But delays attributable to COVID-19 weigh against neither party, while more delay is attributable to defendant and weighs heavily, while less delay is attributable to the State and weighs lightly. Also, defendant was tardy in asserting his right to a speedy trial and did not show prejudice. The circuit court’s denial of dismissal based on the right to a speedy trial was not error. The jury instruction in effect at the time of trial is the exclusive instruction, but instructional error is subject to preservation by objection, or otherwise is subject to review only for plain error. Plain error review determines first whether an open and obvious error occurred, which is always the case with instructional error. But second, a manifest injustice or miscarriage of justice rarely results. Language omitted from instructions at the end of trial was given at the start of trial, so no instruction misled the jury.
State of Missouri, Respondent, vs. Willie Oliver, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED110005
Child’s Imperfect Terminology Supports Conviction
Interrogation must end upon “an unambiguous and specific request for counsel [,]” which includes a written application for a public defender, but not a blank application form. Any violation of the right to counsel must be preserved, by raising at the first opportunity, and is irrelevant when shown harmless. And the right to counsel is still subject to waiver. The statute setting forth the elements of second-degree statutory rape does not specify vaginal penetration, only genital penetration, which child victim’s imperfect terminology supported.
State of Missouri vs. Allen John Dale Anderson
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD84486
State Worker Re-Classification Bill Explained
The Missouri Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the validity of statutes. Statutory amendments re-classified specified State workers from merit-system employees to at-will employees. Those amendments constitute a mandate not subject to discretion, but they reach no further than “the right to terminate employment at any time without cause,” so collective bargaining may still address those preserved conditions of employment. Such preserved conditions of employment can include—for anything short of termination—seniority, for-cause, and grievance provisions. Because preserved conditions can still be subject to collective bargaining, the Missouri Constitution’s right to collective bargaining for State workers is not violated under the amendments. The amendments did not authorize any regulation of the Personnel Advisory Board to ban any preserved condition, so any such regulation is invalid. The Missouri Constitution also protects against impairment of contracts, but contracts already made through collective bargaining are unaffected by the amendments, because each such contract expressly provides that its provisions are subject to changes in the law. Reversed and remanded to circuit court.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 61, et al., Respondents, vs. State of Missouri, et al., Appellants.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC99179
Good Faith Necessary in Voluntary Quit
On a claim for employment security benefits, statutes provide that claimant’s last employer has standing to protest. Claimant voluntarily quit, and alleged good cause, which includes reasonableness and good faith. Good faith was absent when claimant waited only 10 or 15 minutes, while the employer was fixing a safety issue, before walking off the job. In an evidence-based appeal, each finding challenged must be the subject of a separate point relied on and combining the findings in one point results in a multifarious point.
Jonathan Clayton, Appellant, vs. Jars TD, Inc., and Division of Employment Security, Respondents.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED110122
Record of Careful Reflection Negates Abuse of Discretion
An abuse of discretion means that a “ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances then before the [circuit] court and is so unreasonable and arbitrary that it shocks the sense of justice and indicates a lack of careful, deliberate consideration.” No abuse of discretion occurred where the record shows the circuit court’s careful deliberation over the admission of testimony from plaintiff’s expert, designated late in response to the last-minute deposition of defendants’ expert, which revealed an unexpected measure of plaintiff’s injury. During closing arguments, counsels’ exchange suggested the existence of liability insurance, but earlier discussions showed that “the presence of insurance was no secret” so denial of a mistrial was not an abuse of discretion.
DANIEL WOODGATE and TANYA WOODGATE, Respondents vs. ST. JAMES WINERY, INC. and RAUL R. ESPINOZA, Appellants
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District – SD37181
Child’s Best Interests Determine Custody Sub-Issues
In an action for dissolution of marriage, for both the initial judgment and on modification, the statutes provide that the child’s best interests determine child custody issues and sub-issues. “For sub-issues of custody, the circuit court need not find that the change in circumstances be substantial or continuing.” The standard of “particular educational needs” applies to child support and not child custody. Under joint legal and physical custody, neither the statutes nor the parties’ initial judgment prevented modification of custody. Judgment modifying custody sub-issues of school and mailing address had support in substantial evidence relevant to the child’s best interests and, in an appeal charging lack of substantial evidence to support a ruling, evidence contrary to the ruling is irrelevant.
Alison G. Sendlein, Respondent, v. Brian B. Sendlein, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED110187
Certification Must Include Reasoning
Constitutional and statutory provisions require that the dismissal of an action from the juvenile division, for prosecution under criminal statutes, must set forth the support for that ruling. A conclusory statement of the relief ordered is insufficient. The failure to “fix on any [fact] or inform the juvenile or a reviewing court of the reasons for dismissal of the petition” is plain error. Remanded for the circuit court to make findings of fact relevant under the applicable statutes. In a juvenile action, statutes allow appellant an appeal “from any final judgment, order or decree” so an appeal is possible from a ruling not denominated as a judgment.
In the Interest of: D.E.D., Juvenile Officer vs. D.E.D.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD84758
No Objection Was Necessary
Trial counsel has no duty to make a meritless objection so the decision against making a meritless objection never supports a claim of ineffective trial counsel. Trial counsel made no objection to the legal relevance of text messages that “bore directly on, and [wa]s highly probative, of his mental state [,]” and movant did not show how any prejudice outweighed that probative value.
MARQUON DAVIS, Appellant vs. STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District – SD37452