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2016 Unpublished Opinions
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June 8, 2016
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2016-0027
Valerie L. Stiles v. John P. Yob, et al.
      An appeal filed by a party who was granted intervention in a lawsuit against the Supervisor of Elections and two elections boards, challenging removal of certain individuals from the list of electors, but who was denied leave to file a superseding answer and counterclaim, is dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The Superior Court purported to certify the issues in its rulings for immediate appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which it concluded were applicable through Superior Court Rule 7. Whether or not Rule 7 represents a valid exercise of rule-making authority under the Revised Organic Act of 1954, no rule adopted by the Superior Court may limit or expand this Court’s review on appeal. A purported certification under Federal Rule 54(b) does not make an order immediately appealable to this Court, but may—at best—merely inform this Court’s consideration of whether the order qualifies as a final judgment under 4 V.I.C. § 32 or may be appealed under one of the judicially-created exceptions to the final judgment rule. The Virgin Islands Legislature has exercised its power to determine the jurisdiction of Virgin Islands courts in 4 V.I.C. § 32(a), and to establish a set of permissible interlocutory appeals as of right, as set forth in 4 V.I.C. § 33(b) and (d). For those cases that may benefit from immediate appeal but do not fall within any of those categories, the Legislature has established a certification procedure that permits an interlocutory appeal by permission of both the Supreme Court and the Superior Court under 4 V.I.C. § 33(c). It is this procedure that governs certification of interlocutory appeals in the Virgin Islands, for to hold otherwise would effectively divest the Legislature of its authority under the Revised Organic Act of 1954 to determine the jurisdictional limits of Virgin Islands courts. In this case, the Superior Court never certified any of its orders for interlocutory appeal under 4 V.I.C. § 33(c), but only issued a certification pursuant to Federal Rule 54(b), a provision which is wholly invalid with respect to this Court, and the Superior Court never made any of the findings required under § 33(c), such as that the order involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion. Accordingly, this appeal is dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.
      Download Opinion  (168 kb)

June 6, 2016
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0059
William de Boer v. Rachel Sica
      Considering a father’s appeal from a Superior Court order denying enforcement of a child custody and visitation agreement due to his failure to submit himself to an alcohol and drug dependency assessment, as required by the terms of a prior order, because father never challenged the court’s imposition of the drug assessment requirement, and only alleges that he complied with it, it is only determined on this appeal whether the Superior Court abused its discretion in finding that it was not in the best interest of the children to accept the father’s doctor’s report as sufficient to satisfy the drug and alcohol assessment requirement. Here, the doctor’s medical examination and assessment concluded that father was physically healthy and ready to work, and a negative drug test result was attached to the doctor’s report. Certainly, the father’s submitting himself to only one drug test, and no assessment for alcohol at all, does not qualify as alcohol and drug assessment for dependency or use that evidences sustained sobriety. Accordingly, the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the doctor’s report as proof of compliance with the its prior order dated December 17, 2014, and because father has failed to undergo an alcohol and drug assessment in accordance with that order, the decision of the Superior Court embodied in the June 5, 2015 order denying enforcement of the child custody and visitation agreement is affirmed.
      Download Opinion  (101 kb)

February 2, 2016
S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0079
In re: Josayo Williams
      In a petition for writ of mandamus filed by a defendant in a pending Superior Court criminal case, seeking a writ directing the judge currently presiding over that case to dismiss the pending criminal action for failure to provide a speedy trial, the petitioner has failed to meet his burden for entitlement to a writ of mandamus by showing that he has a clear and indisputable right to the writ and no other adequate means to attain the desired relief, and that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances. Where the purported ministerial duty of a judge is to issue legally-correct rulings, mandamus is only appropriate to correct judicial action that is clearly contrary to well-settled law – specifically, decisions that ignore clear, binding precedent from a court of superior jurisdiction. Here, the right of a speedy trial is necessarily relative and depends upon circumstances. Because speedy-trial claims are inherently fact-specific, mandamus may not be used to enforce a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, and the merits of such claims should instead be considered on direct appeal. Accordingly, the petition for writ of mandamus is denied.
      Download Per Curiam Opinion   (150 kb)
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