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2018 Unpublished Opinions
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In re R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2018-0049
July 24, 2018
      Considering a July 23, 2018 petition for writ of mandamus requesting that this Court issue a writ, on an expedited basis, directing the Superior Court judge assigned to the underlying matter (the “nominal respondent”) to quash a subpoena issued by the plaintiffs in that case, the petitioner has failed to establish that it has no other adequate means to attain the desired relief. Consequently, the petitioner has failed to establish one of the three prerequisites to obtaining mandamus relief from this Court. Because the petitioner may obtain appellate review of the nominal respondent’s decisions with respect to the subpoena on appeal from an adverse final judgment and may obtain immediate review by standing in contempt if it fails to comply with the subpoena and then appeals from the contempt order, it has failed to meet its burden of establishing that it is entitled to a writ of mandamus. Accordingly, the petition is denied.
      Download Per Curiam Opinion  (45 kb)

July 10, 2018
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2018-0038
In Re Jensen Alexander
      In this petition for a writ of mandamus, Jensen Alexander—who is incarcerated outside the territory—seeks an order requiring the Nominal Respondent to schedule an evidentiary hearing in his habeas corpus action and to order that he physically appear at the hearing, rather than appear by video conference. After this petition was filed, the Nominal Respondent issued an order scheduling the evidentiary hearing and requiring the Bureau of Corrections to ensure that Alexander appears by video conference. Thus, the first request will be denied as moot. Where a petition for writ of mandamus is based on a judge’s duty to issue legally-correct rulings, the writ is only appropriate to correct judicial action that is clearly contrary to well-settled law. Here, Alexander provides no legal support for his argument that title 5, sections 1305 and 1309, of the Virgin Islands Code requires his physical presence inside the courtroom. Nor does he discuss Virgin Islands Habeas Corpus Rule 2(g)(3), which authorizes a prisoner’s evidentiary hearing appearance by videoconference, subject to certain conditions. Accordingly, Alexander’s petition for a writ of mandamus requiring the Nominal Respondent to order his physical presence at the hearing is denied.
      Download Opinion  (22 kb)

June 22, 2018
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2017-0052
Juan R. Cristobal and Government of the V.I. v. Merchants Market, LLC
      In a proceeding alleging wrongful discharge from employment, in which the Superior Court reversed a default judgment and remanded the proceeding to an Administrative Law Judge with the Department of Labor, specifying a particular standard of review for relief from a default judgment, there is no appellate jurisdiction over the former employee’s appeal because he is challenging an interlocutory order that does not fall under any of the statutory exceptions set forth in 4 V.I.C. § 33, and does not meet the requirements for application of the collateral order exception to the final judgment rule. While the collateral order doctrine may apply to the Government, the Government did not appeal the order, and states only that it inadvertently failed to file the notice of appeal. The Government has identified no extenuating circumstances that warrant waiver of the Rule 5(a)(3) timeliness requirement by granting its motion to allow a notice of appeal filed 62 days out of time, in the interest of justice based on prejudice, merits, willfulness, and extraordinary circumstances. The Government’s motion is denied, and the former employer’s motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction is granted.
      Download Per Curiam Opinion  (48 kb)

June 8, 2018
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2018-0010
In re Richie Fontaine
      In considering a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, the Court finds that Petitioner has not established that he is indisputably entitled to a writ requiring the Nominal Respondent to order the Bureau of Corrections to fix his time sheet. Under the facts presented, determining the correct amount of time that Petitioner must remain incarcerated is not a ministerial act because the Nominal Respondent must review of four different Judgments and Commitments, one of which was imposed by the District Court of the Virgin Islands. Additionally, Petitioner has an alternate basis for relief because he can appeal a denial of his petition for a writ habeas corpus to this Court.
      Download Per Curiam Order  (19 kb)

June 18, 2018
S. C.t Civ. No. 2017-0079
In re Khalil Jafar a/k/a Samuel George
      This petition for writ of mandamus is denied. Petitioner is only asking that this Court hold the Bureau of Corrections in Summary Criminal Contempt of Court pursuant to 14 V.I.C § 581(3) due to its alleged failure to comply with the Superior Court's September 25, 2012 order. Petitioner has not shown that he is indisputably entitled to this writ because the imposition of Summary Criminal Contempt is not a ministerial act as it requires the Court’s discretion and the record does not show that Jafar requested this relief from the Superior Court. Even though Petitioner is proceeding pro se, and makes references to the length of time that his petition for a writ of habeas has been pending, the Court will not expansively construe this petition as one to direct the Superior Court to take action on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Nothing prevents Petitioner from filing another petition that fully complies with the Virgin Islands Rules of Appellate Procedure.
      Download Per Curiam Order  (24 kb)

June 15, 2018
S. Ct. BA. No. 2018-0051
In The Matter of the Application of Eddy G. Robert For Regular Admission to the Virgin Islands Bar.
      In considering an application for regular admission to the Virgin Islands Bar, the Court holds that an applicant who earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Southern New England School of Law has satisfied the educational requirement set forth in Supreme Court Rule 204(d)(5). Although the Southern New England School of Law was not accredited by the American Bar Association at the time the applicant graduated, it became accredited two years later after its merger with the University of Massachusetts. Since the plain text of Rule 204(d)(5) does not require that the law school be accredited by the American Bar Association at the precise time of graduation, the applicant has satisfied the educational requirement because he graduated from a law school that is now accredited by the American Bar Association. Therefore, the applicant may sit for the July 2018 administration of the Virgin Islands Bar Examination.
      Download Per Curiam Opinion  (54 kb)

April 19, 2018
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2018-0036
Elsa Hall v. Samuel H. Hall, Jr.
      Considering a certification order issued by the District Court for the District of the United States Virgin Islands pursuant to Rule 38 of the Virgin Islands Rules of Appellate procedure requesting that this Court resolve questions of law concerning (1) whether a viable claim exists under Virgin Islands law for alienation of a parent’s affection where one entices a parent to leave their child and (2) if not, whether, under Virgin Islands law, a viable claim exists for a tort where one abducts or by similar intentional action compels a parent to be asunder from their child, having reviewed the certification order and the record, the Court declines to accept jurisdiction over these certified questions. Rule 38(a) empowers the Court to answer questions of law certified to it by a court of the United States, but only if such questions “may be determinative of the cause then pending in the certifying court.” In this case, it is not clear that an opinion issued by this Court, were it to accept the certified question, would be outcome-determinative in the district court proceeding. First, the underlying motion for judgment as a matter of law in the district court prompting that court to pursue the Rule 38 certification is premised on several grounds, only one of which involves whether this Court would recognize the tort claims addressed in the above-referenced questions, and none of those alternate grounds has yet been adjudicated by the district court. Since at least one of those alternate grounds might permit the appellant to receive judgment as a matter of law regardless of how this Court were to answer the district court’s certified questions, the Rule 38 proceeding in this Court would be completely unnecessary. Second, even if this Court were inclined to infer that the district court implicitly rejected these other alternate grounds in the motion for judgment as a matter of law when it certified the above-referenced questions, it is not clear how answering the certified questions would “save time, energy, and resources”—a principal aim of the Rule 38 certified question proceeding—given that the district court has not only already predicted how this Court would resolve the issues of local law addressed in the certified questions, but held two jury trials based on the tort claim that it predicted this Court would recognize. Consistent with federal appellate precedent, the certified question remedy is not appropriate after a district court has already resolved the issue by predicting how the pertinent court of last resort would rule on the matters raised in a certified question. Under the particular circumstances presented in this case, the Court is not prepared to utilize the Rule 38 certification procedure to resolve issues that may not necessarily be outcome-determinative, and that in any event could have been certified at a significantly earlier stage of the litigation, before the District Court issued a prediction of Virgin Islands law and the parties went through the expense of two jury trials based on that prediction. Because the Court declines to answer the certified questions on procedural grounds without reaching the merits, neither the parties nor the district court should infer that this Court agrees with or endorses the predictions of Virgin Islands law made by the District Court concerning the issues presented in the above-referenced questions.
      Download Per Curiam Opinion  (124 kb)
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