Court backs payday loan arbitration agreements

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled payday lenders can require customers to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than going to court.

In a 4-3 decision Tuesday, the high court said it is not unfair for a payday loan contract to require arbitration to settle disputes. The court sent the case — involving a woman who sued a title lender — back to a lower court for further proceedings on the contract.

In a related case, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision against an arbitration clause and said a trial judge should have decided whether the agreement was enforceable under Missouri law.

The Missouri decisions follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that federal laws allowing companies to require arbitration trump contrary state laws.

Investigator licensing law upheld

The court has upheld a state licensing law for private investigators, rejecting claims that it could restrict the public’s ability to conduct basic research into people and organizations.

A private investigator from Columbia challenged the law, arguing its requirements were too broad and could violate free speech rights.

The high court rejected the arguments in a unanimous decision Tuesday. The Supreme Court concluded the licensing requirements are intended for those who carry out investigations as part of a for-profit enterprise.

Missouri’s private investigator licensing law was enacted in 2007. It bars unlicensed people from working in the “private investigator business.” Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony thereafter.

Death sentence for jail slayings

The court has upheld the death sentence for a man convicting of fatally shooting two central Missouri law officers during a botched jail break a dozen years ago.

The court on Tuesday rejected seven arguments raised by Michael Tisius, including his objections about a prosecutor’s closing arguments to jurors during a resentencing hearing in 2010.

Tisius was convicted of the 2000 shooting deaths of Randolph County jailers Jason Acton and Leon Egley as he and a woman unsuccessfully tried to free inmate Roy Vance from jail.

The high court in 2008 had overturned a previous death sentence for Tisius, which led to the resentencing and the latest appeal.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court called Tisius’ conduct “calculating and brazen” and said the death penalty was not disproportionate.

County official removal upheld

The court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that a county official can be removed from office because he pleaded guilty to a felony years ago.

Herschel Young pleaded guilty in 1995 to felony assault after hitting someone who spat on his wife. He was elected presiding commissioner in Cass County in 2010, but a trial court ruled last year that Young could be removed from office because state law bars felons from running for office.

Young argued the law wrongly seeks to add punishment for his earlier offense and the restrictions apply only to running for office — not holding it.

The Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision Tuesday that Young could be removed from office.

No tax break for convenience stores

Missouri’s highest court says convenience stores cannot claim a tax break on the electricity used to prepare food.

The Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday hinged on whether the act of warming or cooking food qualified as “processing” a product. If so, then the electricity used for food preparation could qualify for a state sales tax exemption.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that food preparation was not “processing” and the tax break could not be claimed.

Casey’s General Stores had sought the tax break for one month of electricity used at stores in Grain Valley and Greenwood.

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