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Tag Archives: United States

When you sue, you’d better ask for everything

Johnny Ray Chadd was the city administrator for Lake Ozark. City administrators in Missouri are always a vote or two away from getting fired, and Chadd was on the brink. On a vote to fire him in 2005, after he had served less than one year, the aldermen were deadlocked and the mayor cast the tie-breaking vote to let him go.

Chadd sued, claiming that the applicable Missouri statute and the city ordinance required the vote of a majority of the aldermen to remove him as a city officer. The mayor’s vote was irrelevant. In 2007, the appellate court ordered that Chadd be reinstated. He was rehired and immediately fired by the unanimous vote of the aldermen.

Chadd sued again, seeking back wages for the period between his first firing and the second, also alleging that he was wrongfully terminated. Apparently because Missouri law characterizes the employment relationship as at the will of the employer, Chadd alleged that his termination fell under the vague term “prima facie tort,” a legal theory that has never gotten any traction in Missouri courts.

The trial court threw out Chadd’s suit on Lake Ozark’s motion for summary judgment.

Chadd didn’t sue for back wages in the first suit, so he was barred from bringing up the issue now under the principle of res judicata. This principle means that courts will not consider claims that either were or could have been raised in a previous suit between the same parties. The trial court indicated that Chadd had been obligated make his claim for back wages in his first suit, where he was successful.

The prima facie tort claim also failed. Missouri’s at-will employment doctrine applies to situations where there is no employment contract for a specific term. A worker cannot win a suit for damages resulting from termination unless the termination violates some other statute, such as a statute protecting whistle-blowers or persons who are fired for filing workers’ compensation or racial discrimination claims, for example.  Calling a wrongful termination claim a prima facie tort doesn’t get around the at-will employment doctrine.

The Court of Appeals upheld the summary judgment in this opinion, Chadd v. Lake Ozark.


Partition: not always an equal division of real estate

No house is big enough for two couples, my mother told me long ago. Especially when one couple pays for nearly everything.

When the non-paying couple asked the court to divide the house, a Missouri court left them out in the cold. They appealed, and the court’s decision in Hoit v. Rankin indicates Read the rest of this entry

Is it necessary to affirm the right to hunt and fish in state constitutions?

“I liked it better when I was hunting birds there,” said the mediator, when he figured out the location of the garages at a Branson condominium. Seven attorneys gathered to attempt to resolve a dispute over rights to use four garages at the condominium.

As the Ozarks and much of rural America becomes suburbanized, many people want to protect their cherished traditions of hunting and fishing. In ten states, citizens have amended their constitutions to affirm the right to hunt and fish. Oklahoma has done so and the proposal is being considered in Arkansas and Tennessee.

As I hear people in the Ozarks express themselves about land and water and fish and game, I hear the same arguments that have been made to affirm the rights of native peoples to continue their hunting and fishing traditions, some of which have been protected from state regulation by federal law.

The Ozarks have been populated by people of mostly European ancestry for nearly 300 years. After many generations, it’s no wonder that members of old Ozarks familes feel like they need to assert themselves to hang on to their culture. And those whose families haven’t been around as long would naturally want to feel secure in their adopted traditions.

Missouri’s weak commitment to criminal defendants: is there a solution?

The glum face of associate circuit judge John Waters graces the pages of the New York Times, along with photos of Jared Blacksher, who sits in the Christian County jail, awaiting a court-appointed attorney to defend him.

Judge Waters, whose chambers are in the Christian County courthouse in Ozark, Missouri, ten miles south of Springfield, ordered the public defender to represent Blacksher, but the public defender Read the rest of this entry

Whoops. Missouri Supreme Court releases man convicted in 1993 without jurisdiction.

The Missouri Supreme Court today ordered the release of Dwight Laughlin, who was convicted in 1993 of burglary and property damage crimes at the post office in Neosho, Missouri in State ex rel Laughlin v. Bowersox. You can read the briefs here.

At Laughlin’s trial in 1993, his attorney failed to Read the rest of this entry

Getting outside in the Ozarks

Within a week, the heat wave will have run its course and we’ll surely have a little rain. Then we can get moving again in the wonderful Ozarks outdoors and watch the greens become gold, orange and red.

Here are some links for outdoor activities Read the rest of this entry

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