Articles Posted in Alaska Supreme Court

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A husband and wife divorced in 2011. In their property settlement agreement, the wife would receive 55% of the marital estate and 50% of the marital share of the husband's military pension. The parties then disputed how to properly effectuate the settlement agreement. They submitted competing orders addressing the military pension division, and the superior court accepted the wife’s order. The husband appealed, arguing that: (1) he was denied the opportunity to present evidence; (2) the superior court violated federal law by dividing gross pay, disability pay, and more than 50% of disposable retirement pay; (3) the superior court’s final order awarding survivor benefits did not comply with the parties’ settlement agreement and ignored the parties’ stipulated length of marriage; (4) the superior court erred by awarding the wife additional compensation without explanation; and (5) the superior court incorrectly barred the parties’ children from survivor benefit coverage. Because the superior court ignored the stipulated length of marriage and awarded the wife a survivor benefit exceeding her share of the husband’s military pension, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded on those issues. Otherwise, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Glover v. Ranney" on Justia Law

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Responding to a domestic disturbance call, police officers entered a residence without a warrant and pepper sprayed and handcuffed a resident. The family sued for excessive force and unlawful entry. The superior court dismissed the claims on summary judgment, granting qualified immunity for the excessive force claims and holding that the family had not raised a cognizable unlawful entry claim. The superior court later denied the family’s Alaska Civil Rule 60(b)(2) motion to set aside the rulings based on newly discovered evidence. The family appealed. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment ruling and the denial of the Rule 60(b)(2) motion, but remanded the case for further proceedings on the family’s trespass and invasion of privacy claims. View "Lum v. Koles" on Justia Law

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An at-will employee was placed on probation and later terminated for making an inappropriate comment at a work party. The employee sued the employer for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The superior court granted summary judgment on both counts. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment because the employee was at-will, his termination was not a breach of his employment contract, and he failed to present a genuine issue that the employer acted in bad faith. View "Morrison v. NANA WorleyParsons, LLC" on Justia Law

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Philip J. has nine children. The superior court terminated his parental rights to eight. Philip appealed two separate termination orders (Case No. S-14810 and Case No. S14994) which were consolidated in this decision. Philip argued that the superior court erred in finding that active efforts were made to keep this Indian family together in both termination orders. He also argued that the superior court erred when it determined that his eighth child was a child in need of aid. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed both orders. View "Phillip J. v. Alaska" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Jack Korkow was convicted of first-degree murder for beating and stabbing his wife to death while the couple’s young children were present in the family home. The trial court sentenced Korkow to 99 years in prison with no possibility for parole until he served 50 years. The court of appeals reversed the 50-year parole restriction as mistaken; the Supreme Court granted the State's petition for review. Because the trial court correctly applied the statutory restriction on parole after making sufficient findings supported by the record, the Court reversed the court of appeals and held that the restriction was not excessive. View "Alaska v. Korkow" on Justia Law

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Appellant Delbert Urban borrowed against his home in order to build a yacht. He owned the home with his wife Martha. The yacht was destroyed by fire, and the bank foreclosed on the home. After Martha filed for divorce, the parties agreed to divide most of the remaining assets, but disputed the value of certain property they owned out of state. Just before trial, Martha discovered Delbert had hidden assets that he failed to disclose in his pretrial disclosures. The superior court awarded Martha spousal support and attorney’s fees because Delbert's hid assets from the pretrial disclosures. The Delbert appealed the superior court's order. The Supreme Court affirmed the support award and valuation of the out of state land. But the Court reversed and remanded to allow the superior court to reconsider the attorney’s fees award and the classification of the hidden assets. View "Urban v. Urban" on Justia Law

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Bachner Company and Bowers Investment Company were unsuccessful bidders on a public contract proposal. They filed a claim for intentional interference with prospective economic opportunity against four individual procurement committee members. The superior court found that the bidders failed to present a genuine issue of material fact regarding the committee members' alleged bad faith conduct. The superior court then held that the committee members were protected by qualified immunity and that the lawsuit was barred by the exclusive remedy statute. The bidders thereafter appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the bidders indeed failed to present a genuine issue of material fact regarding the committee members' alleged bad faith. Furthermore, the exclusive remedy statute barred the bidders' suit. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Bachner Company, Inc. v. Weed" on Justia Law

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An indigent prisoner appealed two prison disciplinary actions to the superior court. For each appeal the superior court calculated a reduced filing fee. The prisoner failed to pay any filing fees and his appeals were dismissed. On appeal, the prisoner contended that he had no means of paying even the reduced filing fees and argued that the fee statute unconstitutionally deprived him of access to the courts. The Supreme Court agreed with the prisoner: as applied, the applicable statute prevented him from exercising his right of access to the courts in violation of the Alaska Constitution's due process provision. The Court reinstated the prisoner's appeals. View "Barber v. Alaska Dept. of Corrections" on Justia Law

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A member of the military moved to a new post in Alaska in 2005. Two months later, he was deployed to Iraq. After 16 months of service in Iraq, he returned to Alaska in December of 2006. Shortly thereafter, he applied for the 2007 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), for his eligibility for 2006. The Department of Revenue denied his application. The service member filed an informal appeal and later a formal appeal with the Department, both of which were denied. The superior court affirmed the denial, concluding that the relevant statute required him to reside in Alaska for six months before claiming an allowable absence for military service and that the statute did not violate equal protection under the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the service member was not eligible for the 2007 PFD, the Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Heller v. Alaska Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this matter centered on the doctrine of adverse possession and whether the presumption that a private drive across another's property was a permissive use and did not give rise to an easement. The presumption does not apply where a drive was not originally established by the other's property owner for his or her own use. Appellee Edward Shaw owned two lots of land; Appellants James Dault and Shala Dobson owned a non-adjacent parcel in the same subdivision. Shaw used a trail as access to his parcel. The trial crossed several parcels, including that owned by Dault and Dobson. Dault built a shed on his property where the trail had been. Shaw's house was not then occupied. When Shaw’s brother, Michael, discovered that a driveway was being constructed, he asked Dault about the project. Dault assured Michael that the new driveway would provide safer access to Shaw's property, but Michael expressed concern over the lack of a Borough permit. During a subsequent conversation, Dault said that he did not believe that he needed a Borough permit. Michael had by then discovered the grantor easements on some of the lots, including his brother's, and based on them, told Dault to remove the obstruction from the trail. After consideration of the parties various land interests and the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded that the presumption of a private drive as permissive use and did not give rise to an easement applied in this case because the drive at issue was constructed by the original subdivision developers for their own use. The Court concluded the trial court erred in finding that Shaw had a prescriptive easement to use the portion of the trial crossing Dault's lot. View "Dault v. Shaw" on Justia Law