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Jane Doe (Mother) appealed a magistrate court judgment terminating her parental rights to her three minor children: PG, KG, and BG. Near the end of February 2017, Mother, who was thirty-five weeks pregnant with BG, went into preterm labor while in jail. She was transported to a hospital but did not have the baby at that time. While at the hospital, she tested positive for methamphetamines. Around that time, KG was hospitalized to receive treatment for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Because Mother appeared to be under the influence of drugs when she visited KG in the hospital, the doctor called Child Protective Services over concerns that Mother could not adequately care for her child. After an investigation, the State of Idaho filed a petition to remove PG and KG from their home and they were placed into emergency shelter care on March 1, 2017. The children were three years old and one year old, respectively. BG was then born and placed in emergency shelter care on March 29, 2017, after testing positive for three kinds of opiates. Because Mother continued to use drugs, have other criminal issues, and made only minimal progress on her case plan after eight months, the State filed a petition to terminate her parental rights on November 28, 2017. Mother argued the magistrate court abused its discretion in determining that she neglected her children and that it was in the children’s best interest to terminate the parent-child relationship. Although Mother did not describe how the magistrate court abused its discretion or recite the abuse of discretion standard in her brief, the Idaho Supreme Court took her argument to be that substantial and competent evidence did not support the magistrate court’s findings. To this end, the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed termination of her parental rights. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this case was a magistrate court decision to deny a motion by Jane Doe (Mother), the biological mother of an adult, mentally-incapacitated child (Son) to set aside a decree of adoption declaring Jane Doe I (Step-Mother) to be a parent of Son. The decree was entered upon the joint petition for adoption filed by Son’s biological father (Father) and Step- Mother. Mother was not given notice of the proceedings. Upon learning of the adoption, she filed a motion to set aside the decree pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Father and Step-Mother did not respond to Mother’s 60(b) motion, which the magistrate court denied. In this direct appeal to the Supreme Court, Mother argued the lower court erred in denying her motion because notice to Mother and her consent was required. The Supreme Court concurred with Mother's contention that notice and consent was required. The Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court's denial, vacated the decree of adoption, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of Adoption by Step-Parent" on Justia Law

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. Victoria and Vernon Sr. accumulated substantial real estate and business interests during their lifetimes. More than twenty years before her death, Victoria prepared a holographic will. Her son Vernon Smith, Jr. was the only person present when Victoria signed the document. In 2012, Vernon formed a limited liability company, VHS Properties, LLC (“VHS” were Victoria’s initials). He named his mother and himself as the only members of the company. Vernon used a 2008 power of attorney to transfer all of Victoria’s real and personal property to VHS Properties. He signed the transfer document on behalf of Victoria, as her attorney in fact, and on behalf of VHS Properties, as a member. Vernon then used the 2008 power of attorney to execute a second document, by which he transferred to himself all of Victoria’s interest in VHS Properties. He once again signed the document on behalf of Victoria and also signed for himself. By the end of the day on July 4, 2012, Vernon had exclusive ownership and control of all of Victoria’s assets. A dispute arose among Victoria's children following her death and the probate of her estate. A magistrate court ruled Victoria died intestate after finding her will was the product of undue influence of Vernon, Jr. Vernon, Jr. appealed that ruling and an earlier, partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred Victoria's assets to the LLC. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Michael Thompson appealed a district court order that summarily dismissed his petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Thompson was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. Thompson’s direct appeal was unsuccessful and he filed a petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Thompson argued his trial counsel failed to request proximate and intervening cause jury instructions. He also argued his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim of fundamental error as to the jury instructions. The district court granted the State’s motion for summary dismissal of Thompson’s petition for post-conviction relief. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order summarily dismissing Thompson’s petition. The Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review, and finding no error in the district court's judgment, affirmed it. View "Thompson v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Raul Herrera challenged a district court’s partial denial of his Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for correction or reduction of sentence. Following his conviction for first-degree murder, among other charges, Herrera was sentenced to an indeterminate term of life with thirty-five years fixed. Herrera argued his sentence was illegal because the fixed term was greater than the duration authorized by Idaho Code section 18-4004, the statute governing punishment for murder. The district court rejected this argument and denied Herrera’s motion as to that part, but the motion was granted in part due to an illegal sentence for Herrera’s separate conviction for second-degree kidnapping. After a hearing was held to correct the kidnapping sentence, the district court entered an amended judgment, from which Herrera appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's sentence, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Idaho v. Herrera" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered the interpretation of Idaho Code section 37-2732: the State charged Daniel Amstad with violating section 37-2732 for “being present at or on premises of any place where he knows illegal controlled substances are being manufactured or cultivated, or are being held . . . .” Amstad moved to dismiss on the basis that he was in a vehicle, so his conduct did not fall within the statute. The magistrate court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The State appealed and the district court affirmed, holding that “premises” and “place” under section 37-2732 did not include a parked vehicle. The Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with the magistrate and district courts, holding that "a person does not leave a location simply by entering a parked vehicle." As such, the Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Amstad" on Justia Law

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Dillon Gibson was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. His mother, Judy Luis, posted a cash deposit and a property bond that collectively enabled Gibson’s release on bail. After he pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter, but before sentencing, Gibson was alleged to have violated his conditions of release. He was arrested on a bench warrant, remanded to custody, and informed by the district court that additional bail would be required and that the previous bail amount would not be forfeited. Following sentencing, Luis moved for release of the cash deposit, asserting that it should have been exonerated when Gibson was remanded to custody. The district court denied the motion and directed the clerk of the court to apply the cash deposit against Gibson’s fine, costs, and restitution obligations. Luis timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred the cash deposit should have been exonerated when Gibson's bail was revoked and he was remitted to custody. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Sonny Rome sought post-conviction relief. In March 2016, Rome moved for post-conviction relief from his aiding and abetting a burglary conviction, claiming counsel was ineffective under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In support of post-conviction relief, he challenged counsel’s performance at both the trial and direct-appeal phases. The district court held a one-day trial on Rome’s post-conviction petition. At the trial, after Rome presented his case in chief, the State moved for a directed verdict. The district court granted the State’s motion. In this appeal, Rome argued the district court erred by: (1) not taking judicial notice of certain items at the post-conviction phase, and (2) concluding trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to request a certain jury instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rome v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Val Westover filed this action seeking a declaration that the existence of the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) violated Idaho law. This litigation followed an earlier dispute between Westover and Jase Cundick, the Franklin County, Idaho Assessor. That dispute came before the Idaho Supreme Court in which Westover advanced claims for slander of title and intentional interference with existing or potential economic relations and sought writs of mandate and prohibition. After Westover voluntarily dismissed the slander of title and tortious interference claims, the district court denied his requests for extraordinary writs and dismissed the action. Westover appealed and the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court and declined to award attorney fees to either party. Westover then brought this action, seeking a declaration that ICRMP’s existence and relationship with county governments violates the directive in Idaho Code section 12-117(3) that attorney fees awarded against a state agency or political subdivision “shall be paid from funds in the regular operating budget . . . .” ICRMP moved for summary judgment, contending that Westover lacked standing to pursue his claim. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Westover’s declaratory judgment action. View "Westover v. Idaho Counties Risk Mgmt" on Justia Law

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Steven Moore appealed a district court’s decision denying his motion to suppress his identification by an eyewitness. The district court found that law enforcement had engaged in a suggestive identification procedure but concluded that the identification was nonetheless reliable under the five-factor reliability test first articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972). Moore argued before the Idaho Supreme Court that the district court should have suppressed the identification because the district court’s findings regarding several of the reliability factors were not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Moore" on Justia Law