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December 6, 2010
Ervine George v. V.I. Lottery Comm’n, et al.
The Court holds that, when an individual purchases a lottery ticket, the purchaser agrees to the Lottery’s rules and regulations. Accordingly, because the Lottery’s rules and regulations only place a duty on the Lottery to immediately pay a prize upon establishing the legitimacy of the winning ticket—without any regard to whether the individual bearing the ticket is the same individual who purchased it—the Lottery did not, in the absence of a lost or stolen prize claim, breach its contract with the plaintiff by immediately paying the grand prize to another individual who provided it with the winning ticket. Moreover, although the Lottery’s rules and regulations require its executive director to pay checks for all major prizes, the Superior Court did not err in holding that the Lottery’s failure to follow this procedure was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages because the Lottery would not have been placed in the position of paying the grand prize to an individual other than the plaintiff if the plaintiff had not relied on a private notice without official character.
November 15, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No. 2009-0117
In the Matter of the Guardianship of Lillian R. Smith,
The Court holds that when a statute establishes the specific procedure for invoking the Superior Court’s jurisdiction, the failure to follow that procedure deprives the Superior Court of its jurisdiction. Consequently, the Court holds that compliance with section 842 of title 15 of the Virgin Islands Code, which establishes procedures governing the appointment of guardians for incompetent individuals—including that the Superior Court provide the proposed ward with not less than 10 days notice of the time and place of the hearing and that the Superior Court conduct a full hearing—is a prerequisite to the Superior Court obtaining jurisdiction to appoint a guardian, and that the Superior Court’s failure to follow these provisions may be raised by any interested party at any time or by the Supreme Court sua sponte. The Court further holds that, because the ward in the instant matter was not served until six days before the hearing date and was not given the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses or introduce any evidence on her own behalf, the requirements of section 842 were not met in this case. Accordingly, the Court holds that the guardianship order, as well as all subsequently-entered orders in the matter, are nullities that lack any legal effect.
October 27, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2008-0078
Kareem Jamal Brown (Appellant/Defendant,) vs. People of the Virgin Islands, (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Supreme Court holds that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the appellant’s conviction for aiding and abetting another in the commission of first degree murder because the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the People, could have allowed a jury to find that the crime of first degree murder had been committed and that appellant knew of the crime and attempted to facilitate it. However, the Court holds that the trial court abused its discretion when it authorized the People to call witnesses to offer proof of appellant’s bad character in violation of 5 V.I.C. § 887(a), and that the error was not harmless because the evidence of appellant’s guilt, though sufficient to withstand a judgment of acquittal, was not overwhelming. Accordingly, the Court reverses the appellant’s convictions and remands the matter for a new trial.
October 15, 2010
S.Ct.Civ. No.: 2008-0108
Anival Vazquez, Jr., v. Marissa R. Smith Vazquez
The Court holds that, because no statute requires that a civil litigant file a notice of appeal within thirty days or prohibits the Court from considering moot appeals, neither requirement relates to the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction and thus each issue may be waived if not timely asserted. The Court further holds that, even if the mootness issue had not been waived, an appeal of an order granting a domestic violence permanent restraining order does not become moot upon expiration of that order because of the collateral consequences a finding that one committed domestic violence may have on a party’s reputation and on subsequent legal proceedings. Finally, consistent with its prior decision in Bernhardt v. Bernhardt, the Court holds that due process is violated when the Superior Court prevents retained counsel from actively participating in a domestic violence permanent restraining order proceeding.
October 1, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2008-0043
Sherbb Elizee v. People of the Virgin Islands
The Superior Court’s instructions to the jury on the elements of aggravated child neglect constitute plain error, and warrant a new trial, because the instructions authorized the jurors to convict the defendant the charged offense if they found she committed a different, uncharged crime--aggravated child abuse. There was, however, sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the defendant’s conviction for neglecting her parental duties.
September 30, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2009-003
Lemy Vergile v. People of the Virgin Islands
The Superior Court did not abuse its broad discretion in disqualifying a juror where the court observed the juror being inattentive and the juror failed to divulge his acquaintance with the defendant during voir dire. The Superior Court also did not err in instructing the jurors that they could consider the defendant, who testified at trial, an interested witness.
September 30, 2010
S.Ct.Civ. No. 2009-0068
In Re: Michael A. Hartlage as Plaintiff to an Action for Damages for Personal Injury.
The Superior Court denied appellant’s motion to file a late claim against the government under the Virgin Islands Tort Claims Act and subsequently denied appellant’s motion for reconsideration. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion for reconsideration, ruling that the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion because the motion was based on inadmissible new evidence, and the only other evidence presented to show that the government had notice of the claim was appellant’s own conclusory statements.
September 30, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2008-0103
Elvis E. Brito, v. People of the Virgin Islands
Because the facts alleged in the “to wit” clause of the charging information was mere surplusage, the Superior Court was not required to include the facts in its supplemental jury instructions on the elements of being an accessory after the fact, and the Government was not required to prove the facts to establish the defendants’s guilt. Other asserted errors concerning the Superior Court’s exclusion of evidence and the court’s failure to advise the defendant of his right to appeal, even if error, were harmless.
September 24, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No. 2010-0004
In Re: Joseph Elliot, Jr.
The Court holds that, because the Legislature has mandated that the Superior Court give petitions for writ of habeas corpus expedited consideration, those who have requested a writ of habeas corpus have a clear and indisputable right to have that petition considered by the Superior Court within a reasonable time. The Court further holds that, to determine whether a trial judge has breached the ministerial duty to rule on a petition for writ of habeas corpus within a reasonable time, each situation must be considered on its own facts, with primary consideration given to the reason for the delay, including whether the delay is the fault of the petitioner. Accordingly, the Court finds that issuance of a writ of mandamus directing a Superior Court judge to rule on a petition for writ of habeas corpus is justified when no orders have been entered in the matter for eighteen months and the Superior Court judge has provided no legitimate explanation for the delay.
Download Per Curiam Opinion
September 24, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No. 2009-0023
Beachside Associates, LLC vs. Yehuda Fishman, et al.
The Court holds that, although 5 V.I.C. § 1(b) only references the “district court” and the “Superior Court,” the Supreme Court possesses the authority to enact Supreme Court Rule 30 pursuant to 5 V.I.C. § 541 because, consistent with its prior precedents, the establishment of the Supreme Court implicitly amended section 1(b). Moreover, the Court holds that, notwithstanding the implicit amendment of section 1(b), fee-shifting statutes such as section 541 by their very nature authorize the recovery of appellate attorney’s fees because to hold otherwise would undermine the public policy considerations that underlie the fee-shifting statute. Furthermore, the Court holds that the prevailing party on appeal is entitled to an award of appellate attorney’s fees even if that party may not ultimately be the prevailing party in subsequent Superior Court proceedings on remand. Finally, the Court finds that, when a remand to the Superior Court has been ordered and a party challenges the reasonableness of a request for appellate attorney’s fees, the interests of judicial economy are furthered by allowing the Superior Court to determine the exact amount of appellate attorney’s fees that should be awarded to the prevailing party on appeal.
Download Per Curiam Order
September 21, 2010
S. Ct. BA. Nos. 2010-0017, 2009-0218
In the Matter of the Application for the Admission of: K. Rick Alvis, Esquire’s Pro Hac Vice Admission
The Court holds that, although the District Court has jurisdiction to establish its own pro hac vice admission rules, pro hac vice appearances in the District Court shall count towards Supreme Court Rule 204(a)(4)’s lifetime limit of three pro hac vice appearances. The Court further holds that even if the minimum requirements of Rule 204(a)(4) are otherwise met, the Court possesses the discretion to deny pro hac vice admission for other reasons, such as failure to disclose prior pro hac vice admissions on the pro hac vice questionnaire or for violation of other court rules. Accordingly, the Court denies pro hac vice admission in BA No. 2010-0017 but, because the requirements for equitable waiver have been satisfied, declines to revoke the pro hac vice admission previously granted in BA No. 2009-0218.
Download Per Curiam Order
September 16, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2009-045
Rodney E. Miller, Sr., (Appellant/Defendant) v People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Superior Court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss because the People’s prosecution for making a false or fraudulent representation to the government was governed by a three year statute of limitation, and the limitation period had expired.
September 15, 2010
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2007-0117
Norman Henry Martin, (Appellant/Defendant) v Alvina M. Martin (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Court holds that the Superior Court erred when it granted partial summary judgment on the Appellant’s counterclaims because the discovery rule applies to the statute of limitations for fraud and the Appellee had failed to meet her initial burden by pointing to any evidence that the Appellant knew or should have known about the alleged fraud or misrepresentation more than two years prior to the date he filed his counterclaims. The Court further holds that the Superior Court erred when it granted the Appellee’s request for partition because the Superior Court failed to ascertain the parties’ respective rights to the properties as mandated by 28 V.I.C. § 458. Finally, the Court finds that the Superior Court did not err when it denied Appellant’s request for relief under an unjust enrichment theory because Appellant made no attempt to prove the elements of an unjust enrichment claim at trial, but used the unjust enrichment cause of action as a vehicle to re-litigate the fraud and misrepresentation counterclaims that had previously been dismissed.
September 14, 2010
S.Ct.Civ. No. 2007-104
Meral Smith, (Appellant/Plaintiff,) v Charles W. Turnbull and Iver A. Stridiron (Appellees/Defendants)
The Court, applying its prior decision in Martinez v. Colombian Emeralds, holds that the Superior Court lacked discretion to accept or consider the defendants’ answer or motion to dismiss prior to ruling on the plaintiff’s motion for entry of default. Moreover, the Court holds that the Superior Court erred when it applied the doctrine of res judicata to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint because (1) individuals sued in their official capacity are not in privity with the same individuals sued in their personal capacity; and (2) the plaintiff was precluded from bringing a claim for money damages as part of his prior habeas corpus action, and thus his instant civil rights lawsuit did not arise from the same transaction or occurrence as his earlier petition for writ of habeas corpus.
September 13, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2009-0064
Roland G. Murrell (Appellant/Defendant) v People of the Virgin Islands
The Supreme Court holds that the Superior Court violated 14 V.I.C. § 4 when it invoked that statute to hold a bench trial on a charge of driving under the influence in violation of 20 V.I.C. § 493(b)(1) because section 493(b)(1) mandates that a convicted defendant be fined not less than $500 and section 4, by its own terms, states that it cannot be applied to cases where a mandatory sentence is imposed. The Court further holds that the Superior Court violated the appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial—which applies to the Virgin Islands pursuant to section 3 of the Revised Organic Act—when it invoked 14 V.I.C. § 4 to hold a bench trial on charges of driving under the influence and negligent driving because these offenses, which carry maximum authorized sentences greater than six months incarceration, are serious rather than petty. Finally, the Court holds that the appellant forfeited rather than waived his right to a jury trial, and that the Superior Court’s violations of both 14 V.I.C. § 4 and section 3 of the ROA constitute plain errors that warrant a new trial.
September 13, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2009-035
Roland G. Murrell (Appellant/Defendant) v People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Supreme Court holds that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the appellant’s convictions for three counts of disturbing the peace because police officers have no greater duty than civilians to submit to the threat of a criminal assault and imminence is not a requirement under the true threats doctrine. The Court further holds that disturbing the peace constitutes a petty offense and thus the appellant did not possess a right to a jury trial on those charges pursuant to section 3 of the ROA. Moreover, while the Superior Court erred when it invoked 14 V.I.C. § 4 to hold a bench trial on a negligent driving charge, the Superior Court’s decision to acquit the appellant on that charge, combined with the fact that the Double Jeopardy clause prohibits a retrial on that offense, renders the Superior Court’s error moot. Finally, the Court sua sponte vacates the appellant’s sentence because the Superior Court illegally sentenced the appellant to a combined period of incarceration and probation that exceeded the maximum period of incarceration authorized by law.
September 9, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No.: 2007-0136
Julian Francis (Appellant/Defendant) v. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Court holds that the government submitted sufficient evidence to sustain a charge of littering in violation of 19 V.I.C. § 1563(5) because although witness testimony on the issue of mosquito breeding was fleeting, the defendant never cross-examined the witness on this issue nor made any attempt to dispute this element of the offense at trial. However, the Court holds that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for littering in violation of 19 V.I.R.R. § 1560-2(j) because that regulation is not consistent with chapter 56 of title 19 of the Virgin Islands Code, which only criminalizes the placement of junked vehicles on private property without the consent of the property owner. Furthermore, the Court holds that the Superior Court’s decision to disallow the appellant’s questioning of a witness on the issue of potential bias constituted a violation of the Confrontation Clause, but amounted to harmless error. Finally, the Court finds that the appellant’s due process rights were not violated.
August 24, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2007-109
Government of the Virgin Islands and Public Employees Relation Board, (Appellants/Respondents) v Clifford Crooke, (Appellee/Petitioner)
The Court holds that, although 3 V.I.C. § 530a(d)—notwithstanding its reference to the appellate jurisdiction of the “District Court”—authorizes litigants to appeal all decisions of the Superior Court entered pursuant to petitions for writ of review challenging PERB decisions, this statute is inapplicable to the instant case because section 530a(d) was not adopted until 2002 and the underlying writ of review action was brought in 2001 pursuant to the general writ of review statute. However, the Court holds that it possesses jurisdiction over the appeal pursuant to the collateral order doctrine. The Court further holds that the Superior Court possessed jurisdiction over the petition for writ of review even though it was untimely filed pursuant to Superior Court Rule 15(a) because, to the extent Rule 15(a) is a claims-processing rule, the Government and PERB’s failure to challenge the timeliness of the petition resulted in waiver of that rule’s protections. Furthermore, to the extent Rule 15(a) is jurisdictional, the general writ of review statute, by incorporating all rules of the Superior Court rather than only Rule 15(a), also incorporated Superior Court Rule 10, which allows the Superior Court to grant extensions of time. With respect to the merits, the Court holds that the Superior Court correctly applied a de novo standard of review to PERB’s legal conclusions because the pertinent statutes did not contain any ambiguous language, and further holds that the Superior Court correctly held that exempt employees who elected into the classified service pursuant to the former 3 V.I.C. § 498 possessed all the rights and privileges of a classified employee, including the right to appeal a termination to PERB. Finally, the Court holds that the Government and PERB waived any challenge to the Superior Court’s consideration of evidence that was allegedly not part of the administrative record by failing to object to admission of that evidence at any point in the Superior Court proceedings.
August 24, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No.:2007-127
Novelle Watts, Jr. (Appellant/Plaintiff) vs. Two Plus Two, Inc., and Wayne Bell (Appellees/Defendants)
The Court holds that the Superior Court, when deciding whether to dismiss an action brought against multiple defendants for failure to prosecute, is required to weigh the six Halliday factors separately with respect to each defendant. The Court further holds that the Superior Court erred in its weighing of the Halliday factors in this case because only two of the six Halliday factors favored dismissal, and even then only slightly.
July 30, 2010
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2009-0023
Beachside Associates, LLC, (Appellant/Plaintiff) v Yehuda Fishman, et al.,(Appellees/Defendants.)
The Court holds that, because the issue of whether Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) requires the court to consider if a discretionary extension of time is appropriate despite the lack of good cause is an important issue of first impression that is separate from the merits of the underlying dispute, it possesses jurisdiction to resolve the issue pursuant to the collateral order doctrine. The Court further holds that while the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in its good cause analysis, it did misapply FRCP 4(m) when it failed to determine whether the plaintiff was entitled to a discretionary extension of time for service of process notwithstanding the lack of good cause. Accordingly, the Court vacates the Superior Court’s dismissal order and remands the matter to the Superior Court so that it may consider whether the statute of limitations and any other appropriate factors warrant the granting of a discretionary extension of time.
July 30, 2010
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2008-0071
Horaciana J. Rojas, et al., (Appellants/Plaintiffs), v Two/Morrow Ideas Enterprises,et al., (Appellees/Defendants.)
The Court holds that, when the Superior Court is asked to review the reasonableness of a settlement agreement on behalf of a minor plaintiff, it also possesses jurisdiction to review a contingent fee agreement between the adult plaintiffs and their attorney. However, because such agreements must be reviewed in light of the best interests of the minor, the Superior Court’s decision to reduce an attorney’s contingent fee without applying the appropriate three-factor test requires that the decision be vacated. Moreover, although the Superior Court possesses jurisdiction to review the reasonableness of a contingent fee agreement independently of a petition to approve a minor’s settlement, it cannot reduce a contingency fee as unreasonable unless it considers the eight factors provided for in Rule 1.5 of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, made applicable to Virgin Islands courts pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 203. Finally, because the record contained no evidence that the contingent fee in this case was unconscionable, the Court also reverses the Superior Court’s finding that the contingency fee must be reduced because it is unconscionable.
July 29, 2010
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2008-0065
Laverne P. White, (Appellant/Plaintiff) v Spenceley Realty, LLC, (Appellee/Defendant.)
The Supreme Court, after explaining the relationship between sections 355, 357, 360, and 361 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, holds that section 357—and not sections 360 and 361—is applicable when a lessor leases an entire building to a lessee. The Court further holds that, at the summary judgment stage, a court cannot use extrinsic evidence to disregard the plain text of a contract unless the extrinsic evidence is undisputed. Finally, the Court holds that, because section 357 subjects a lessor to liability only if the lessor does not exercise reasonable care after receiving notice of the need for repairs, summary judgment was warranted in this case due to the absence of any admissible evidence that, if viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, would have allowed a trier of fact to find that the lessor knew that the lessee intended for it to make repairs.
July 7, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2007-0105
Daryl Blyden (Appellant/Defendant), v People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s September 25, 2007 Judgment as to all counts, except that, consistent with its prior decisions, the Court reversed Appellant’s conviction for unauthorized possession of ammunition. Specifically, the Court held that Appellant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated by the admission of the physical evidence at trial, because the firearm was obtained pursuant to a valid Terry stop and the additional seized items were obtained pursuant to a search incident to a lawful arrest. Additionally, the Court held that the admission at trial of the police officer’s suppression hearing testimony did not violate the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause, because, though technically a direct examination, Appellant partook of cross-examination as a matter of form and his examination of the officer was not hindered by the trial court. Moreover, the Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the firearm into evidence, because the local rules of evidence in affect at the time of Appellant’s trial did not require specific authentication of non-writings and because both parties made full use of the procedure suggested in 5 V.I.C. § 778. Finally, the Court held that there was no Fifth Amendment violation in the admission of Appellant’s inculpatory statements, because both statements were voluntarily and spontaneously made after Appellant was advised of his rights.
June 24, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No.: 2008-0012
Delma Madir, (Appellant/Defendant ) vs.Matthias Daniel, For Himself And Minor, Kimani Kiron Daniel, (Appellee/Plaintiff.)
The Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in awarding permanent physical custody of the minor child to his father where the record showed that the court based its decision on numerous factors related to the best interests of the child.
June 23, 2010
S.Ct.Civ. No.: 2009-030
Cape Air IInternational, (Appellant/Defendant,) vs. Tommy Lindsey and Denise Lindsey, (Appellees/Plaintiffs.)
The Small Claims Division of the Superior Court erred in granting judgment in favor of the plaintiffs for the value of jewelry taken from their baggage after flying on one of the defendant’s planes. Although the defendant did not establish that the liability limitation in the contract of carriage governed the claim, the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proving that the defendant’s negligence caused the loss, and the Superior Court should have, therefore, granted judgment to the defendant.
June 18, 2010
S.CT.Civ. No.: 2009-0108
Harriet Mercer (Appellant/Petitioner) vs. Albert Bryan, Jr., Commissioner of the V.L Department of Labor, etal. (Appellees/Respondents)
The Court affirms the Superior Court’s dismissal of an untimely petition for writ of review for lack of jurisdiction because, pursuant to the Court’s prior holdings in Pichardo v. Comm’r and Worldwide Flight Services v. Gov’t, the statutory deadlines for filing a petition for writ of review are jurisdictional and may not be equitably modified by courts. The Court further (1) holds that the Superior Court may consider an untimely motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) rejects the contention that the decision in Worldwide Flight Services cannot apply to cases where the petition for writ of review was filed before that decision was issued; and (3) re-affirms its previous holdings that the general writ of review statute, codified as 5 V.I.C. §§ 1421-23, and Superior Court Rule 15(a) are inapplicable when a statute authorizes a petition for writ of review in a specific case.
June 25, 2009
S.Ct.Civ. No.: 2007-060
Eleanor Chavayez, (Appellant/Plaintiff ) vs. Sydney Buhler and James S. Armour (Appellees/Defendants)
Appellant Eleanor Chavayez (hereafter “Chavayez”) appeals a March 28, 2007 Superior Court order denying her motion for relief from a June 17, 2002 judgment dismissing Chavayez’s complaint against Appellees Sydney Buhler and James S. Armour (collectively “Appellees”). For the following reasons, we shall reverse the trial court’s March 28, 2007 order and vacate its judgment.
January 14, 2010
S.Ct.Civ. No.: 2008-082
Marie Augustine Harris, (Appellant/Plaintiff,) v. Rafael Garcia, M.D., Maxwell Martin d/b/a D & D Apothecary Hall Pharmacy, Ernest Roper, John Doe, (Appellees/Defendants.)
The Supreme Court holds that the Superior Court erred in denying a "motion for reconsideration" of an order dismissing a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Superior Court Rule 50, and not Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.3, governs motions to set aside a final judgment. The Court further holds that thirty-seven days is not an unreasonable amount of time for a litigant to seek relief from a final judgment under Superior Court Rule 50, and that the Superior Court's denial of the motion as untimely was not harmless because the Superior Court could not have denied the motion on other grounds without also abusing its discretion.
January 27, 2010
Daniel Carlo Castillo (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Court denies a motion to withdraw as counsel in a criminal appeal as of right because counsel's Anders brief, while indicating that counsel believed Appellant's appeal lacked merit, did not establish that Appellant's appeal was wholly frivolous. Specifically, the Court holds that while an argument may lack merit when it is against the weight of legal authority, it is not a frivolous argument unless it is against the overwhelming weigh of legal authority and also entirely without any basis in law or fact or without any logic supporting a change of law.
February 11, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No.: 2010-017
Lemuel Phillips (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
Appellant, Lemuel Phillips, was involved in a long-standing dispute with his neighbor, Julian Industrious. The dispute escalated into a confrontation in which Phillips pointed a gun at Industrious and Industrious’s landscaper and threatened to shoot the two men. After the confrontation, the People of the Virgin Islands charged Phillips with, among other crimes, two counts of third degree assault. Following a bench trial on the charges, the Superior Court found Phillips guilty. Phillips filed the instant appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. For the reasons which follow, the Superior Court’s judgment of conviction is affirmed.
June 4, 2010
S.CT.Civ. No. 2008-031
Norma Pickard-Samuel, et al. (Appellants/Plaintiffs,) v. Government of the Virgin Islands and Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, (Appellees/Defendants.)
The Court holds that, because the appellee had failed, through its motion for summary judgment, to meet its initial burden of identifying evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the Superior Court erred in granting summary judgment to the appellee based on the record before it.
June 8, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2008-0045
Aurelio Rivera, III, (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands, (Appellee/Plaintiff.)
Appellant, Aurelio Rivera, III (“Rivera”), appeals from the Superior Court’s June 2, 2008 Order of Judgment and Commitment, which sentenced him to twenty years of incarceration. For the reasons which follow, we will affirm Rivera’s conviction.
May 6, 2010
S.Ct. Civ. No. 2008-0085
Mill Harbour Condominium Owner’s Association, (Appellant/Defendant,) v. Denese Marshall, MD, (Appellee/Plaintiff. )
The Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court's September 25, 2008 Judgment, which had awarded monetary damages to Appellee for damage sustained to her vehicle while located in a parking lot on Appellant's property. Specifically, the Court held that the trial court erred in concluding that Appellee had established the requisite duty and causation elements for a negligence action.
May 4, 2010
S.Ct. Crim No. 2008-0008
Roi V. Simmonds (Appellant/Defendant) v. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff). S. Ct. Crim. No. 2008-0008
Following a warrantless search of Roi Simmonds’ back yard, enforcement officers from the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (“WMA”) issued him a citation for accumulating waste on his property. Simmonds moved to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the search, arguing that the officers violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Superior Court denied Simmonds’ motion to suppress, and after a bench trial, found him guilty of the charge. Simmonds filed this appeal, asserting that the Superior Court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Because we agree with Simmonds that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the officers’ warrantless search of his back yard, we will reverse his conviction.
April 21, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No.: 2009-0064
Roland Murrell, (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff.)
The Court, based on concerns about judicial economy, the role of defense counsel, and the fact that a criminal defendant is entitled to a direct appeal of his convictions as of right, holds that it shall no longer accept motions to withdraw as counsel pursuant to Anders v. California and shall instead require all court-appointed attorneys to submit a merits brief regardless of any personal belief that the appeal they have been appointed to prosecute may lack merit or be frivolous..
April 19, 2010
S.CT.Crim. No.: 2009-0111
Jalani Williams, (Appellant/Defendant,) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court's November 25, 2009 pre-trial detention order and remanded to the Superior Court with instructions to conduct a new pre-trial detention hearing, in accordance with its holdings therein, to determine whether Appellant should be detained pending trial. Specifically, the Court held that the provisions of 5 V.I.C. § 3504a(b) not abrogated by its prior decisions concerning pre-trial detention continue to govern the conduct of pre-trial detention hearings in local Virgin Islands courts. Additionally, the Court held that, because the trial court in this case did not ascertain the reliability of the hearsay statements underlying the People's exclusively hearsay evidence, the trial court erred in concluding that the evidence was clear and convincing that Appellant committed first degree murder.
April 12, 2010
S.CT.Civ. No. 2010-053
Ernest Halliday, Sr., et al (Appellants/Plaintiffs,) vs. Footlocker Specialty, Inc., et al (Appellees/Defendants)
The Supreme Court holds that, because dismissal for failure to prosecute constitutes an extreme sanction, the Superior Court may not order it unless it has expressly considered and weighed the extent of the plaintiff's personal responsibility, the prejudice—if any—to the other parties in the litigation, whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a history of dilatoriness, whether the plaintiff or attorney's conduct was willful or in bad faith, the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, and the meritoriousness of the plaintiff's claim.
April 7, 2010
S.CT.Civ. No. 2009-031
Diana Y. Davis (Appellant/Defendant,) vs. Allied Mortgage Capital Corporation, (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Court holds that it lacks jurisdiction to review a Superior Court order adjudicating a plaintiff's claim against a defendant, but not disposing of the defendant's counterclaim, because it is not a final appealable order. The Court further holds that while such an order may nevertheless be final if a) the order implicitly denies the counterclaim; b) judgment in favor of the plaintiff's claim renders the counterclaim moot; or c) the counterclaim was never properly before the Superior Court, none of those exceptions are present in the instant case. Significantly, the Court found that the defendant's counterclaim was properly before the Superior Court even though it was filed during the automatic stay mandated by 5 V.I.C. § 547 because documents filed during such a stay are voidable rather than void.
March 9, 2010
S.CT.Crim. No.: 2008-040
Akeem Corraspe, (Appellant/Defendant,) v. People of the Virgin Islands, (Appellee/Plaintiff.)
Because Superior Court Rule 126 does not prohibit a court from participating in plea discussions, the court did not err by commenting on a proposed plea, and the defendant's attorneys did not render ineffective assistance by failing to object to the judge's comments.
February 19, 2010
People of the Virgin Islands (Appellant/Plaintiff,) vs. Willis Todmann (Appellee/Defendant)
The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's April 28, 2009 interlocutory order, which granted Appellee's motion to exclude the proposed testimony of the People's handwriting expert. Specifically, a majority of the Court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the two pieces of testimony, despite the fact that the trial court erroneously applied the Federal Rules of Evidence ("FRE") rather than the statutorily-enacted Uniform Rules of Evidence ("URE"). Notably, the Court held that FRE 702's assist the trier of fact requirement, which is not embodied in 5 V.I.C. § 911(2)'s expert witness rule, is equivalent to 5 V.I.C. § 777(f)'s general relevancy requirement.
February 19, 2010
S.CT.Misc. No. 2009-025
IN RE: The Honorable Leon A. Kendall.
The Supreme Court holds that Supreme Court Internal Operating Procedure 10.2.1, which incorporates the provisions of title 4, section 284 of the Virgin Islands Code, governs judicial recusal of Supreme Court Justices. The Court further holds that neither Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 42 nor Superior Court Rule 139 bind the Supreme Court because no procedural mechanism exists to apply federal or Superior Court procedural rules to Supreme Court proceedings. However, the Court determines that, because Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 42's judicial disqualification procedure represents the minimum constitutional requirements necessary to safeguard a criminal contempt defendant's due process rights under the United States Constitution, it may nevertheless serve as a basis for judicial recusal in indirect criminal contempt proceedings before the Supreme Court. Finally, the Court finds that recusal is not required in this matter because the United States Supreme Court has held that a defendant's alleged disobedience of a court order, without more, does not compel that the judge who issued the order recuse himself from presiding over the defendant's indirect contempt proceeding.
January 26, 2010
S.Ct. Crim. No. 2008-042
Arnold Malone (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
Appellant had shown no plausible basis for two witnesses to be returned to court to be examined on their out of court recantation statements. The two witnesses had identified Appellant as the assailant in written statements to the police on the day of the incident, but one witness subsequently recanted his initial identification of Appellant; both witnesses subsequently testified against Appellant in his trial and identified him as the assailant. Both witnesses knew Appellant prior to the shooting incident. After testifying both witnesses recanted their initial identifications of Appellant during a hiatus in the trial, even though they had both identified Appellant as the assailant in their trial testimonies. During the trial, the two letters of earlier recantations by one of the two witnesses were admitted in evidence. Therefore, the two witnesses' latest recantations are insufficient to compel the witnesses to reappear in court to be examined on their latest recantations. Appellant was therefore not entitled to compulsory process because a criminal defendant does not have a Constitutional right to have cumulative evidence admitted at trial.
January 15, 2010
Sheara Bryant (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
Because the Superior Court's temporary custody order did not finally adjudicate the issue of neglect and was not a type of interlocutory order which could be immediately appealed, the appeal from that order was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
January 13, 2010
S.Ct.Crim. No. 2008-064
Bandele K. Richards, (Appellant/Defendant) vs. People of the Virgin Islands (Appellee/Plaintiff)
The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's August 4, 2008 Order of Judgment and Commitment, holding that the trial court's admission of the out-of-court and in-court identifications of Appellant was not erroneous. In particular, the Court concluded that, although the pretrial identification procedure employed by the police was unnecessarily suggestive, the pretrial identification itself was nevertheless reliable under the totality of the circumstances. Additionally, the Court held that, because the admission of the pretrial identification was proper, the trial court did not err in admitting the in-court identification.
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