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Sandoval v. Ricketts

Supreme Court of Nebraska

January 25, 2019

Jose Sandoval et al., appellants and Cross-appellees,
v.
John Peter Ricketts, Governor of the state of Nebraska, et al., appellees, Don Stenberg, Nebraska state treasurer, et al., appellees and Cross-appellants, and Arthur L. Gales et al., appellees and Cross-appellees.

         1. Judgments: Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Determination of a jurisdictional issue which does not involve a factual dispute is a matter of law which requires an appellate court to reach its conclusions independent from a trial court.

         2. Motions to Dismiss: Pleadings: Appeal and Error. An appellate court reviews a district court's order granting a motion to dismiss de novo, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.

         3. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Before reaching the legal issues presented for review, it is the duty of an appellate court to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the appeal.

         4. Declaratory Judgments. An action for a declaratory judgment will not lie where another equally serviceable remedy is available.

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: John A. Colborn, Judge. Affirmed.

          Brian William Stull, of American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Amy A. Miller, of American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska Foundation, Christopher L. Eickholt, of Eickholt Law, L.L.C., and Brett J. Williamson, Luann Simmons, and Bill Trac, of O'Melveny & Myers, L.L.P., for appellants.

         [302 Neb. 139] Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Ryan S. Post for appellees John Peter Ricketts et al.

          Bartholomew L. McLeay, of Kutak Rock, L.L.P, for appellee John Peter Ricketts in his individual capacity.

          J.L. Spray and Christina L. Usher, of Mattson Ricketts Law Firm, and Ryan K. McIntosh, of Brandt, Horan, Hallstrom & Sedlacek, for appellees Don Stenberg et al.

          Tracy Hightower-Henne, of Hightower Reff Law, and Kevin Barry, of Quinnipiac University School of Law Legal Clinic, for amici curiae Legal Scholars.

          Heavican, C.J., Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and Papik, JJ., and Pirtle and Riedmann, Judges.

          Heavican, C.J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs are eight death row inmates. The inmates filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that 2015 Neb. Laws, L.B. 268, which abolished the death penalty in Nebraska, was not repealed by referendum. The inmates further sought injunctive relief preventing the Department of Correctional Services and its director, Scott R. Frakes, from carrying out executions or steps toward execution against any plaintiffs or indispensable parties. The Lancaster County District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The inmates appeal. We affirm the district court's dismissal.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs in this case are Jose Sandoval, Roy L. Ellis, Jorge Galindo, Nikko Jenkins, John L. Lotter, Raymond Mata, Marco E. Torres, and Eric F. Vela (the inmates). Indispensable parties are Arthur L. Gales, Jeffrey Hessler, and Carey Dean Moore. The inmates and indispensable parties were all convicted of first ...


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