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Supreme Court Decisions, March 4, 2022

07 Mar 2022 10:13 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

Case No. 124,849: Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State, in his official capacity, and Michael Abbott, Wyandotte County Election Commissioner, in his official capacity, Petitioners v. The Honorable Bill Klapper, in his official capacity as a district court judge, et al., Respondents

Link to opinion: https://www.kscourts.org/KSCourts/media/KsCourts/Opinions/124849.pdf

The Supreme Court denies the Attorney General’s petition for mandamus and quo warranto relief. The Kansas Attorney General petitioned the Supreme Court seeking dismissal of two pending lawsuits filed in Wyandotte County District Court and a third lawsuit in Douglas County District Court. Those lawsuits allege that the congressional reapportionment map passed by the Kansas Legislature is impermissibly gerrymandered in violation of the Kansas Constitution.

The Supreme Court held that mandamus and quo warranto were not appropriate remedies because the district judges below had not violated any clear legal duty nor were they unlawfully asserting authority by hearing the cases.

The Court clarified that if an action does not lie in mandamus or quo warranto, the petition must be denied. The Court stated that it has no discretion to reach the merits of such a claim simply because the question presented is one of statewide importance, significant public concern, or there is a compelling need for an expeditious and authoritative legal ruling on an important legal question.

Appeal No. 122,271: State of Kansas v. Emond S. Gulley

Appeal No. 122,271 archived oral argument

A Sedgwick County jury found Gulley guilty of committing first-degree premeditated murder and aggravated robbery in 2018 when he was 15 years old. The court sentenced Gulley to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 618 months for the murder conviction and a consecutive 61 months' imprisonment for the robbery conviction. Gulley challenged his convictions, arguing instructional and prosecutorial error. In a per curium decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. Gulley also challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 470, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012), in which the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment. A majority of the Court affirmed the sentence, ruling Miller was inapplicable because Gulley did not face life without parole. Justice Eric Rosen, joined by Justice K.J. Wall, wrote separately on the sentencing issue, opining that the sentencing court erred because it considered 618 months a mandatory minimum, but the relevant statutes permitted a mandatory minimum as low as 554 months. Rosen believed the case should be remanded to address the sentencing error before the Court considered Gulley's constitutional claim. Justice Standridge dissented. She concluded Gulley's mandatory sentence was the functional equivalent of life without parole—regardless of whether the court had sentenced Gulley to only 554 months as the minimum—and, as such, unconstitutional under Miller.

Appeal No. 122,773: State v. Dustin Tyler Smith

Summary calendar; no oral argument

The Supreme Court affirms the McPherson County District Court decision to deny Smith's motion to withdraw plea filed roughly seven years after he was convicted of first-degree murder on a plea of no contest. The district court ruled that Smith's motion to withdraw plea was late and that he had failed to make an affirmative showing of excusable neglect which would extend the time limitation to file the motion. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirms the district court.

Appeal No. 122,925: State of Kansas v. Brian C. Shields

Summary calendar; no oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed a decision denying Shields' motion to withdraw his plea of no-contest to first-degree felony murder. After entering the plea and being sentenced for the crime, Shields sought to withdraw it alleging his attorney did not adequately represent him. The Neosho County District Court denied the motion after hearing testimony from Shields and the attorney who represented him and finding that Shields was represented by competent counsel and had entered the plea knowingly and understandingly. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court upheld that decision, concluding Shields failed to demonstrate the district court abused its discretion.

Case No. 124,397: In the Matter of Michael M. Spiegel

Case No. 124,397 oral argument

In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, the Supreme Court suspended Spiegel from the practice of law in Kansas for one year, effective from the filing of the opinion, for violations of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2) (2021 Kan. S. Ct. R. 336) (conflict of interest: current clients), 1.8(k) (2021 Kan. S. Ct. R. 346) (conflict of interest: current clients: specific rules), and 8.4(d) (2021 Kan. S. Ct. R. 427) (misconduct).


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