Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Tucker v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 28, 2017

TRACY TUCKER, JASON SHARP, NAOMI MORLEY, JEREMY PAYNE, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO; C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER, in his official capacity as Governor of Idaho; HON. LINDA COPPLE TROUT, DARRELL G. BOLZ, SARA B. THOMAS, WILLIAM H. WELLMAN, KIMBER RICKS, SEN. CHUCK WINDER, and REP. CHRISTY PERRY, in their official capacities as members of the Idaho State Public Defense Commission, Defendants-Respondents.

         2017 Opinion No. 38

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Samuel A. Hoagland, District Judge.

         District court order dismissing class action complaint, affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

          American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho Foundation, Richard Alan Eppink, Boise, for appellants. Jason D. Williamson argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondents Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, Trout, Bolz, Ricks, Winder and Perry. Michael S. Gilmore, Deputy Attorney General argued.

          Cantrill, Skinner, Lewis, Casey & Sorensen, LLP, Boise, for respondents Thomas and Wellman. Daniel J. Skinner argued.

          BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Tracy Tucker, Jason Sharp, Naomi Morley, and Jeremy Payne, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated (Appellants), bring this appeal from the Ada County District Court. Appellants filed a class action complaint in which they alleged Idaho's public defense system is inadequate under federal and state constitutional standards. The district court reasoned that Appellants' claims were not justiciable on standing, ripeness, and separation of powers grounds and dismissed the complaint. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Appellants constitute a putative class of criminal defendants who seek to challenge Idaho's public defense system. They filed a class action complaint on June 17, 2015. Appellants allege Idaho's public defense system violates the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution. As defendants, Appellants named (1) the State of Idaho; (2) Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, in his official capacity; and (3) the seven members of the Idaho Public Defense Commission (PDC), in their official capacities.[1]Appellants seek various forms of equitable relief, including a declaration that Idaho's public defense system is unconstitutional and an injunction requiring Respondents to bring Idaho's public defense system into constitutional compliance.

         Respondents moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing the case was not justiciable because Appellants did not sue the proper defendants. Since the provision of public defense has been delegated to Idaho's forty-four counties under Idaho Code section 19-859, Respondents maintained that Appellants erred by not suing the counties. Appellants countered that the State is ultimately responsible for ensuring constitutionally adequate public defense, contending they had sued the proper defendants.

         The district court held that Appellants' claims were not justiciable and dismissed their complaint on standing, ripeness, and separation of powers grounds. This appeal timely followed.

         II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

         1. Is the State of Idaho immune from state law claims alleging constitutional violations?

         2. Do the justiciability doctrines bar this lawsuit?

         3. Are Appellants entitled to attorney fees on appeal?

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Jurisdictional issues, like standing, are questions of law, over which this Court exercises free review." In re Jerome Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 153 Idaho 298, 308, 281 P.3d 1076, 1086 (2012). Similarly, this Court has free review over whether dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was properly granted. See Meisner v. Potlatch Corp., 131 Idaho 258, 260, 954 P.2d 676, 678 (1998).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         We first address the two main bases of the district court's dismissal order: immunity, and the justiciability doctrines. We then address whether Appellants should receive attorney fees on appeal.

         A. Is the State of Idaho immune from state law claims alleging constitutional violations?

         Appellants sued (1) the State of Idaho; (2) Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, in his official capacity; and (3) the seven members of the Idaho Public Defense Commission (PDC), in their official capacities. Against each defendant, Appellants alleged claims under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution. Concerning immunity, the district court held that the State was immune from the federal law claims alleged, but not the state law claims. The district court further held that neither Governor Otter nor the PDC have immunity. The only immunity issue before us on appeal is whether the State is immune from Appellants' state law claims alleging constitutional violations.

         Respondents set forth two bases to contend the State is immune. First, they contend Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 3(b) shields the State from claims under state law for injunctive relief. In relevant part, when the complaint was filed, Rule 3(b), entitled "Designation of Parties, " provided:

[A]ll civil actions by or against a governmental unit or agency, or corporation, shall designate such party in its governmental or corporate name only, and individuals constituting the governing boards of governmental units . . . shall not be designated as parties in any capacity unless the action is brought against them individually or for relief under Rules 65 or 74.

I.R.C.P. 3(b) (2015).[2]

         Respondents bolster their argument with Weyyakin Ranch Property Owners' Association, Inc. v. City of Ketchum, 127 Idaho 1, 1-3, 896 P.2d 327, 327-29 (1995). In Weyyakin, the plaintiff sued the City of Ketchum, seeking to enjoin enforcement of a subdivision annexation ordinance. Id. The plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the ordinance. Id. When the City of Ketchum, through its elected officials, failed to comply with the TRO, the district court held the officials in contempt. Id. On appeal, this Court held that the district court's contempt order violated Rule 3(b) because the complaint named the "City of Ketchum, " not the "elected officials individually." Id. at 3, 896 P.2d at 329.

         Respondents' argument is unavailing. Nothing in the plain language of Rule 3(b) shields the State from claims under state law for injunctive relief. Nor does Weyyakin support Respondents' argument. Weyyakin merely held that the district court erred by holding the elected officials in contempt because they were not named in the complaint "individually or for relief under Rules 65 or 74, " as Rule 3(b) required. Id. As a result, "[b]ecause the temporary restraining orders failed to name the elected officials individually, the trial court never obtained jurisdiction over them, and therefore did not have the authority to find them in contempt." Id. Nothing similar is at issue in this case.

         Second, Respondents argue the doctrine of sovereign immunity shields the State from Appellants' state law claims alleging constitutional violations. "It is the general rule that, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a governmental unit can only be sued upon its consent." Bott v. Idaho State Bldg. Auth., 128 Idaho 580, 591, 917 P.2d 737, 748 (1996). Even so, many other jurisdictions hold that sovereign immunity does not apply when constitutional violations are alleged, as a contrary rule would render constitutional rights meaningless. See, e.g., Columbia Air Servs., Inc. v. Conn. Dep't of Transp., 977 A.2d 636, 645 (Conn. 2009); Fla. Dep't of Revenue v. Kuhnlein, 646 So.2d 717, 721 (Fla. 1994); Corum v. Univ. of N.C. Through Bd. of Governors, 413 S.E.2d 276, 292 ( N.C. 1992); Ashton v. Brown, 660 A.2d 447, 463 (Md.Ct.App. 1995); Kilgo v. Ga. Dep't of Corrs., 413 S.E.2d 507, 508 (Ga.Ct.App. 1991).

         Though we have never addressed the issue, we have recognized that because sovereign immunity is a common law doctrine, the judiciary has the power to modify it. Haeg v. City of Pocatello, 98 Idaho 315, 317, 563 P.2d 39, 41 (1977). Were we to accept Respondents' position that sovereign immunity shields the State from suit in this instance, we would leave parties unable to vindicate constitutional rights against the State. This we decline to do. Accordingly, aligning with our sister jurisdictions identified above, we hold that sovereign immunity is inapplicable when constitutional violations are alleged.

         B. Do the justiciability doctrines bar this lawsuit?

         The justiciability doctrines are the second basis of the district court's dismissal order. The justiciability doctrines "identify appropriate or suitable occasions for adjudication by a court." State v. Philip Morris, Inc., 158 Idaho 874, 881, 354 P.3d 187, 194 (2015). Before reviewing the district court's justiciability analysis, we take a moment to clarify which standard of review should be employed when justiciability challenges are made. We note that the district court applied Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) governs dismissal for failure to state a claim, inquiring into the factual sufficiency of the substantive claims alleged. The justiciability doctrines, however, are wholly dissimilar from whether a substantive claim is adequately alleged. Indeed, the justiciability doctrines implicate jurisdiction. E.g., Martin v. Camas Cnty. ex rel. Bd. of Comm'rs, 150 Idaho 508, 512, 248 P.3d 1243, 1247 (2011).

         As such, we pronounce that justiciability challenges are subject to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) since they implicate jurisdiction.[3] This, in turn, gives rise to a different standard of review than the one which Rule 12(b)(6) supplies. See Owsley v. Idaho Indus. Comm'n, 141 Idaho 129, 133 n.1, 106 P.3d 455, 459 n.1 (2005). The district court's error in this regard, however, does not constitute grounds for reversal. For one, our earlier cases left the issue unsettled. Compare Martin, 150 Idaho at 512, 248 P.3d at 1247 ("Where a plaintiff does not have standing it cannot be said that the 'case or controversy' requirement has been satisfied; therefore the judiciary lacks jurisdiction to hear the case."), with Brooksby v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 153 Idaho 546, 547-48, 286 P.3d 182, 183-84 (2012) (addressing standing under Rule 12(b)(6)). Moreover, Appellants did not raise the issue in their opening brief. See Gallagher v. State, 141 Idaho 665, 669, 115 P.3d 756, 760 (2005) (explaining that issues not raised in the opening brief are waived). Thus, although we clarify which standard of review governs, we disregard the error. See I.R.C.P. 61 ("At every stage of the proceeding, the court must disregard all errors and defects that do not affect any party's substantial rights.").

         Aligning our focus back to the present case, the district court's order addressed three justiciability doctrines: (1) standing; (2) ripeness; and (3) separation of powers.[4]

         1. Standing

         In a class action, standing is met if at least one named plaintiff satisfies the requirements of standing against every named defendant. Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 978 (9th Cir. 2011); Henry v. Circus Circus Casinos, Inc., 223 F.R.D. 541, 544 (D. Nev. 2004). In order to have standing to seek injunctive relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate a likelihood of repeated injury or future harm to the plaintiff in the absence of the injunction. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102-03 (1983).

         Appellants argue they have standing under the traditional and "relaxed" analyses. Both are discussed below.

         (a) The traditional standing analysis

         Under the traditional standing analysis, "the plaintiff must show (1) an 'injury in fact, ' (2) a sufficient 'causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, ' and (3) a 'like[lihood]' that the injury 'will be redressed by a favorable decision.' " Philip Morris, 158 Idaho at 881, 354 P.3d at 194 (citation omitted).

         (i) Injury in fact

         Injury in fact requires the injury to "be 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.' " Id. (citation omitted). The district court concluded Appellants' allegations did not satisfy this standard, emphasizing how Appellants had not been convicted or sentenced, nor had they pursued any appeal or post-conviction relief.

         The district court erred on two primary bases. First, the district court erred factually by concluding no Appellant had been convicted. The complaint alleged Tucker had pled guilty and was awaiting sentencing. An affidavit filed with the complaint set forth the same information.

         Second, the district court erred by attempting to undertake case-by-case inquiries into Appellants' individual criminal cases. The district court treated Appellants' allegations as subject to Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984), which contemplates case-by-case analyses of ineffective assistance of counsel claims by inquiring whether (1) counsel's performance was deficient; and (2) counsel's deficiency prejudiced the defendant. Strickland authorizes relief in individual criminal cases by, for example, allowing courts to vacate convictions due to counsel's ineffective assistance. The Court in Strickland was very clear about the individualized analysis it was creating. Id. at 690 ("Thus, a court deciding an actual ineffectiveness claim must judge the reasonableness of counsel's challenged conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct."). Strickland, therefore, is inapplicable when systemic deficiencies in the provision of public defense are at issue. E.g., Kuren v. Luzerne Cty., 146 A.3d 715, 746-47 (Pa. 2016); Hurrell-Harring v. New York, 930 N.E.2d 217, 221-22 (N.Y. Ct. App. 2010).

         The issues raised in this case do not implicate Strickland. Appellants alleged systemic, statewide deficiencies plaguing Idaho's public defense system. Appellants seek to vindicate their fundamental right to constitutionally adequate public defense at the State's expense, as required under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution. They have not asked for any relief in their individual criminal cases. Rather, they seek to effect systemic reform. Their allegations find support in both Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 342 (1963), and State v. Montroy, 37 Idaho 684, 690, 217 P. 611, 614 (1923), which make clear that it is the State's obligation to provide constitutionally adequate public defense at critical stages of the prosecution. Alleging systemic inadequacies in a public defense system results in actual or constructive denials of counsel at critical stages of the prosecution suffices to show an injury in fact to establish standing in a suit for deprivation of constitutional rights. Cf. Luckey v. Harris, 860 F.2d 1012, 1016-17 (11th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 495 U.S. 957 (1990).

         As a result, we conclude Appellants satisfy the injury in fact standard because the complaint alleged actual and constructive denials of counsel at critical stages of the prosecution. A criminal defendant who is entitled to counsel but goes unrepresented at a critical stage of prosecution suffers an actual denial of counsel and is entitled to a presumption of prejudice. See United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 658-60 (1984). As to allegations of actual denials of counsel, Tracy Tucker, Jason Sharp, and Jeremy Payne were not represented by counsel at their initial appearances. During the initial appearances, bail was set. Since Tucker, Sharp, and Payne could not afford to post bail, they remained in jail for varying lengths of time-three months for Tucker; two weeks for Sharp; and five months for Payne. These allegations illustrate violations of constitutional and statutory requirements. See I.C. § 19-852(1)(a); Rothgery v. Gillespie Cnty., Tex., 554 U.S. 191, 194 (2008) ("This Court has held that the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment applies at the first appearance before a judicial officer at which a defendant is told of the formal accusation against him and restrictions are imposed on his liberty.").

          The complaint also alleged constructive denials of counsel. A constructive denial of counsel occurs when "although counsel is available to assist the accused during trial, the likelihood that any lawyer, even a fully competent one, could provide effective assistance is so small that a presumption of prejudice is appropriate without inquiry into the actual conduct of the trial." Ramsey v. State, 159 Idaho 887, 891, 367 P.3d 711, 715 (Ct. App. 2015) (citing Cronic, 466 U.S. at 659-60). Naomi Morley, though represented by counsel via counsel's video presence at the initial appearance, had no opportunity to speak with counsel during her initial appearance. As to Morley, the complaint further alleged the following additional constructive denials:

On information and belief, Ms. Morley's lawyer's caseload has been so large, and his resources so few, that he has been unable to review Ms. Morley's extensive comments on the police reports in her case or to investigate the vehicle involved in the accident before the state scrapped it, destroying that evidence. Further, Ms. Morley has been unable to communicate effectively or consistently with her attorney, and is concerned that her attorney is ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.