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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for July 16, 2021

19 Jul 2021 9:17 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 121,459: State of Kansas v. Kora L. Liles

Appeal No. 121,459 archived oral argument video

The Supreme Court upheld Liles' convictions and sentences for multiple counts of felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated kidnapping, and drug and drug paraphernalia possession. The charges stem from a 2017 triple murder that occurred at Liles' Topeka home. Liles argued that arguments by prosecutors and the Shawnee County District Court’s instructions to jurors concerning her own testimony and that of her accomplices amounted to improper commentary on her credibility. She also argued prosecutors breached an unwritten agreement they reached with her after her convictions to give a favorable sentencing recommendation in exchange for her testimony in the accomplices' prosecutions.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. The Court held that neither the prosecutor's comments nor the jury instructions given were improper or deficient. And it held the claimed sentencing agreement breach was not reviewable because Liles did not develop an adequate record in the trial court—noting in particular that the terms of any agreement were absent.

Appeal No. 119,834: Richard L. Hanson, Circle H Farms LLC, Rome Farms LLC, Stegman Farms Partnership v. Kansas Corporation Commission and Texas-Kansas-Oklahoma Gas LLC 

Appeal No. 119,834 archived oral argument video

The Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions that Texas-Kansas-Oklahoma Gas, LLC, a natural gas utility company, unlawfully billed its customers and remanded the case to the Kansas Corporation Commission to fashion an appropriate remedy.

The case was brought by TKO's customers who claimed the utility overcharged them by distorting the energy content of the gas sold, and that it overpriced them by about 9.5%. But the Commission determined TKO did not violate state law even though it acknowledged that the utility manipulated the energy content of the gas. In a decision for the court written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court agreed with the lower courts that the Commission erroneously interpreted and applied the relevant state law, and that its factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The court concluded that "the utility's invoicing practice was 'unjust, unreasonable, [or] unfair.'"

No. 123,589: In the Matter of Kevin W. Kenney, respondent

No. 123,589 archived oral argument video

In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, the Supreme Court disbarred Kenney, Prairie Village, from the practice of law effective from the date of its written opinion. The Court cited violations of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, including making a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. In its decision to disbar Kenney, the Court noted Kenney’s actions resulted in two adoptions that were overturned a significant time later due to his acts of fraud.

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