U.S. Eighth Circuit

U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


Hopefully, all of us know that jailhouse phone calls are recorded. This presents a problem for attorney/client communications, which are privileged. Iowa has a statute requiring police to inform an arrested suspect in jail of his right to a confidential, in-person conference with his attorney once the suspect requests privacy for the communication.

That didn't happen in the case of David Hellstern. After he was arrested for DUI, an officer denied his request for privacy during a phone call and didn't fulfill his statutory obligation to tell Hellstern he had a right to a private, in-person conference.

Last week, a federal district court in Missouri joined a chorus of state courts in striking down the state's ban on gay marriage. In doing so, that court set aside precedent from 2006 that many regarded as a controlling opinion on same-sex marriage bans: Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, an Eighth Circuit opinion upholding Nebraska's ban.

Judge Ortrie D. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri distinguished Bruning by classifying it as a political right-of-access case, rather than a case about a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

Was he right? And what impact does Bruning have today, post-Windsor?

And the Feds weigh in!

Two days ago, a state court judge held that Missouri's ban on gay marriages performed in the state was unconstitutional. A month before that, a second state judge held that the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, we were wondering what was happening with the federal case.

The opinion was being proofread, apparently. Today, Judge Ortrie D. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri invalidated that state's law banning same-sex marriage, saying, quite interestingly, that it amounted to gender-based discrimination.

Like dominos.

Last month, a state court in Kansas City held that the state of Missouri had to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. Earlier this week, a state court in St. Louis held that the state couldn't ban in-state gay marriages. The state declined to appeal the former case, but will appeal the latter case to the Missouri Supreme Court in order to get a statewide ruling.

Meantime, a federal case is pending in Jefferson City and the Eighth Circuit is one of the few that haven't addressed same-sex marriage since Windsor. Same-sex marriage definitely seems like a "when" rather than an "if" in this great state, but the legal path in Missouri certainly is interesting.

North Dakota has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Earlier this year, a federal judge said the law -- which prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be heard, which can be as soon as six weeks after conception -- was unconstitutional.

The state supreme court last week dealt with another provision of the law, this one outlawing non-surgical abortion by medication. The court's procedure requires four of the five justices to agree in order to rule a statute unconstitutional, but only three agreed. Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle and Justice Dale Sandstrom said the law was constitutional.

It's hard for most people to feel sorry for Mark Christeson. According to The Associated Press, he teamed up with his cousin to rape a mother of two, then, when one of the kids recognized him, Christeson and his cousin murdered the whole family before taking off with their car and electronics.

Of course, there's often more to the story -- murderers don't often emerge from the womb without a conscience. Often, there's mental illness, or some sort of childhood tragedy, that makes you wonder if this person really deserves the death penalty.

Christeson never got the chance to tell that story because his attorneys, who still represent him and refuse to admit fault, missed the habeas deadline. He's scheduled for execution by the State of Missouri at midnight tonight, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in and grants relief.

The police rolled up on Warnell Reid's place to arrest his girlfriend, Earnestine Graham, who had herself violated the terms of her federal supervised release. When they got there, the front door was slightly open and Graham was standing inside in her pajamas. She was quickly arrested without incident, a protective sweep of the house was done (because of the presence of minors), and then she was allowed to change.

When police officers escorted her into the house, they noticed an SKS rifle in plain sight. Graham told police that the rifle belonged to her boyfriend, who himself showed up and was detained moments later. Graham also gave police permission to search the home, which led to the discovery of two more firearms and ammunition.

Reid was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and sentenced to a term of 188 months' imprisonment as an armed career criminal. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit upheld the conviction but vacated the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentence.

It's getting hard to keep track of all the states that introduced laws requiring voters to produce state-issued photo IDs in order to vote. You can take Arkansas off the list (oh, but you'll need to add it to the list of voter ID cases that could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court -- like the ones out of Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina).

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court's determination that Act 595, passed in 2013, was unconstitutional.

Dr. K.R. Conklin had two children from his first marriage, and then acquired two stepchildren (not adopted) via his second marriage. In 1996, before his second marriage, he created a trust for the benefit of his biological children only (conveniently called "Children" in the opinion).

In 2002, Conklin and his second wife Jo undertook a cross-country trip by plane and automobile. On their way to the airport, Conklin wrote a letter by hand indicating what should happen to his estate if he and his wife should die during this trip. The letter included the two stepchildren in the distribution of Conklin's assets. He left the letter in the car's glovebox, which was parked at the airport.

Predictably, the Ninth Circuit leads the pack so far in cert. grants with eight, but who's No. 2? If you guessed the Fifth Circuit, you'd be wrong: It's the Eighth!

That many from North Dakota? Iowa? Arkansas? Yup, the Court will hear five cases from the Eighth Circuit this term (at least so far). Here they are: