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  • 30 Apr 2020 8:22 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)
    Jerome Hellmer

    Jerome Hellmer

    Chief justice reappoints Jerome Hellmer to Kansas Government Ethics Commission

     

    TOPEKA — Chief Justice Marla Lucker reappointed Jerome Hellmer, a retired judge, to the Kansas Government Ethics Commission.

    Hellmer’s term runs through January 2022.

    Hellmer has served on the ethics commission since his January 2015 retirement as chief judge of the 28th Judicial District, which is composed of Saline and Ottawa counties. He had served as a district court judge since 1996 and chief judge since 2011. Before he was appointed judge, Hellmer practiced law in Salina for 22 years.

    The nine-member Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is charged with administering, interpreting and enforcing the state's Campaign Finance Act and laws relating to conflicts of interest, financial disclosure, and lobbying regulation. These laws establish the public’s right to information about the financial affairs of Kansas’ public officials, lobbyists, and candidates for office. The commission also renders advisory opinions and can adopt rules and regulations under a less comprehensive conflict-of-interest law covering local government officials and employees.

    The chief justice appoints one member of the commission. The governor appoints two members, and the secretary of state, attorney general, Senate president, House speaker, Senate minority leader, and House minority leader each appoint a member.


  • 29 Apr 2020 8:27 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)
    Amber Smith

    Amber Smith

    Chief justice appoints Amber Smith to Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

     

    TOPEKA—Chief Justice Marla Luckert appointed Amber Smith as her designee on the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

     

    Smith succeeds Justice Caleb Stegall, who previously served in this role.

     

    Smith joined the judicial branch's Office of Judicial Administration as deputy judicial administrator in July 2019. She previously was chief litigation counsel for the Kansas Corporation Commission. She is a graduate of Washburn University School of Law and holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in business administration and a bachelor's degree in economics, all from Washburn University.

     

    The Kansas Legislature created the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 1994. The council:

    • develops and oversees reporting of all criminal justice federal funding available to the state or local units of government; and
    • oversees management of the criminal justice information system.

    Other council members include the governor or designee, the attorney general, the secretary of corrections, the superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol, and the director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.


  • 27 Apr 2020 11:25 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief Judge Preston Pratt appointed to Kansas Board of Examiners of Court Reporters

     

    TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court appointed Chief Judge Preston Pratt of the 17th Judicial District to fill an unexpired term on the Kansas Board of Examiners of Court Reporters.

    Pratt succeeds former District Judge Jeffry Jack, who retired. Pratt’s term expires June 30, 2021.

    Pratt is chief judge of the 17th Judicial District, which is composed of Decatur, Graham, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, and Smith counties.

    The Kansas Board of Examiners of Court Reporters:

    • supervises granting certificates of eligibility for certified court reporters;
    • administers the annual registration;
    • oversees court reporter conduct; and
    • reviews and acts on any complaints made against a certified court reporter.

    The board includes judges, practicing attorneys, and court reporters.

    District Judge Rachel Pickering of the 3rd Judicial District, composed of Shawnee County, chairs the board.

    Other members are:

    • Sharon Cahill, an official court reporter in the 29th Judicial District, composed of Wyandotte County;
    • Jennifer Hill, an attorney from Wichita;
    • Sheila Lyons, an official court reporter in the 18th Judicial District, composed of Sedgwick County;
    • Shirla McQueen, an attorney from Liberal;
    • Jennifer Olsen, an official court reporter in the 3rd Judicial District; and
    • Vesta York, a certified court reporter from Wichita.


  • 27 Apr 2020 11:23 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)


    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

     

    Appeal No. 116,111: State of Kansas v. Freddie Alec Thomas

    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court ordered Barton County District Court to reevaluate its decision to grant Thomas immunity from prosecution under the state's self-defense laws. In 2015, Thomas fatally shot an unarmed man. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court said the facts the district court relied on did not necessarily mean Thomas acted in self-defense. The court said there were disputes about what happened during the conflict that needed to be resolved before the immunity decision could be made.

     

    Appeal No. 117,743: State of Kansas v. Seth Collins


    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court reinstated criminal charges against Collins stemming from a 2016 confrontation outside his apartment. Collins used a knife to fatally wound one woman and injure another, both unarmed. This occurred when the women followed Collins to his apartment after a parking lot brawl. Sedgwick County District Court dismissed the charges, ruling Collins was immune from prosecution because his actions were justified under the state's self-defense laws. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court ruled immunity should not have been granted because there was probable cause to believe Collins' actions were not justified as self-defense. Instead, the court said, the "decision whether to hold Collins criminally liable for his conduct, and to what degree, should be made at trial."

     

    Appeal No. 118,737: State of Kansas v. Filiberto B. Espinoza Jr.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Espinoza's life sentence with eligibility for parole after 25 years. Espinoza pleaded guilty in Wyandotte County District Court to first-degree felony murder —an off-grid person felony mandating a hard-25 sentence. But before sentencing, Espinoza moved for a durational departure arguing the hard-25 sentence was unconstitutional as applied to the facts of his case under § 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. Espinoza also raised this argument orally at sentencing. The district court denied his challenge, finding the sentence constitutional. Espinoza challenged the district court's decision on direct appeal, arguing the district court erred when it failed to make factual findings concerning Espinoza's as-applied constitutional challenge. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, finding a defendant making an as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of a sentence under § 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights has an obligation to ensure an adequate factual record is developed in district court. If necessary, this requires the defendant to file a motion invoking the judge's duty to make findings of fact and conclusions of law under Supreme Court Rule 165 (2020 Kan. S. Ct. R. 215). Because Espinoza failed to do so, the court affirmed his sentence.

     

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 27 Apr 2020 11:16 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    New attorneys take state oath by videoconference

    TOPEKA—Successful applicants to the February 2020 Kansas bar examination will be sworn in as Kansas attorneys today.
     
    Because the Kansas Judicial Center is closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the attorneys will be sworn in by videoconference.
     
    Chief Justice Marla Luckert of the Supreme Court and Chief Judge Julie Robinson of the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas, congratulated the news attorneys by video message.
     
    Starting at 9:30 a.m. today, Supreme Court Justices Carol Beier and Evelyn Wilson will initiate videoconferences with the new attorneys who chose to have their state oath delivered by a Supreme Court justice. Each attorney will be contacted individually.
     
    "We know this is an important day for our new attorneys. Although we can't gather together in the Judicial Center, we want this to be a meaningful start to their new careers," Beier said.
     
    New attorneys who did not choose to have the oath administered by videoconference can be sworn in by a judge of record in the United States. According to Supreme Court rule, the oath can be administered by any judge in the United States or a U.S. territory.
     
    In a typical year, new attorneys and their guests are invited to appear in the Kansas Supreme Court Courtroom. The chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court and a representative of the U.S. District Court welcome them. Members of the Kansas Board of Law Examiners present the new attorneys to the court. The clerk of the Kansas appellate courts administers the state oath, and a representative of the U.S. District Court administers the federal oath.​
     
    New attorneys eligible to be sworn in, listed alphabetically by county, are:

     
    Name City State County
    Cody A. Bebout Lawrence KS Douglas
    Stephanie L. Ellis Lawrence KS Douglas
    William P. Machado Lawrence KS Douglas
    Paige A. Bangerter Dodge City KS Ford
    Noah D. Hahs Leawood KS Johnson
    Jessica G. Lile Leawood KS Johnson
    Ashley E. Franden Olathe KS Johnson
    Nicholas J. Irmen Olathe KS Johnson
    Maya J. Kapadia Olathe KS Johnson
    Tayllor L. DeFoor Overland Park KS Johnson
    Suzanne W. Warnery Prairie Village KS Johnson
    Patrick E. Nachtsheim Shawnee KS Johnson
    Jacob T. Gayer Healy KS Lane
    Heather D. Wedel Emporia KS Lyon
    Isaac P. LeBlanc Atwood KS Rawlins
    Quinn R. Kendrick Salina KS Saline
    Monica Sosa Goddard KS Sedgwick
    Dakota G. Lamb Liberal KS Seward
    Jacob G. Holly Topeka KS Shawnee
    Atticus J. Disney Topeka KS Shawnee
    William L. Larchar Topeka KS Shawnee
    Luis M. Solorio-Mendez Topeka KS Shawnee
    David Suarez Topeka KS Shawnee
    Nicole K. Turner Topeka KS Shawnee
    Nichole M. Sklare Kansas City KS Wyandotte
    Courtney A. Hurtig Alexandria LA  
    Amber D. Plumlee Broken Arrow OK  
    Nicholas A. Gerschutz Columbus OH  
    Stephanie E. Woltkamp Denver CO  
    Ivan M. Camejo Kansas City MO  
    Cody L. Wiegers Lee’s Summit MO


  • 20 Apr 2020 9:36 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    TOPEKA—Today the Kansas Supreme Court announced guidance for bar exam applicants, law schools, and legal employers to let them know what to anticipate in the coming weeks as the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

    "Our guidance answers questions and, hopefully, eases some anxieties of those waiting to hear if the exam usually given in late July will take place and, if so, when," Chief Justice Marla Luckert said.

    The Supreme Court said the July examination will proceed as scheduled if the uniform test written and provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners is available. NCBE has said it will decide by early May whether it will provide the July exam.

    If the two-day exam is given in July, those who have qualified to take it will be able to take that test or an alternative test to be given September 9 and 10.

    The Supreme Court also suspended certain provisions in court rules on temporary permits to practice law, including the requirements for supervising attorneys and a permit application fee. 


  • 17 Apr 2020 4:10 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 114,675: State of Kansas v. Darrell Broxton

    Archived oral argument video

    On appeal by petition, the Supreme Court affirmed Broxton's convictions in Wyandotte County District Court but vacated his sentence and remanded his case for resentencing. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the court held the district court did not err when it refused to give a felony-murder instruction because felony murder is not a lesser included offense of first-degree premeditated murder. The court further held when performing a jury instruction analysis, an appellate court must not continue to factual appropriateness if the instruction is not legally appropriate. Broxton also argued the district court erred when it excluded a "No Information" document filed by Florida authorities stating they lacked sufficient evidence to charge Broxton in a 1996 Florida homicide. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals the evidence was both relevant and probative to disprove Broxton committed the Florida murder, which the State sought to admit as evidence of a prior bad act under K.S.A. 60-455 to prove identity. However, this error was harmless in light of the significant and convincing body of evidence presented at trial. The Supreme Court also held the district court erred when it scored a 1989 Florida burglary conviction as a nonperson felony. The Supreme Court changed its analysis of "comparable offenses" in State v. Wetrich, 307 Kan. 552, 561-62, 412 P.3d 984 (2018), which was decided while Broxton's case was on appeal. Under this new analysis, the Florida burglary statute used to convict Broxton is not a "comparable offense" to the Kansas analogue and must be scored as a nonperson felony. Broxton received the benefit of this change in the law because the change occurred during his direct appeal's pendency and not using a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Supreme Court remanded Broxton's case for resentencing with the Florida burglary offense scored as a nonperson felony.

     

    Appeal No. 117,362: State of Kansas v. Bryan Richard Harris


    Archived oral argument video


    The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and Atchison County District Court in Harris' case and remands the matter for a new trial. The Supreme Court held Harris' waiver of his right to jury trial was legally insufficient based on the district court's failure to properly inform Harris of his right and to ensure Harris understood the nature of his right. In light of this decision, the Supreme Court declined to address Harris' other claims.

    Appeal No. 117,362: State of Kansas v. Reginald Frazier

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and Geary County District Court decisions to deny Frazier's motion to withdraw a plea of no contest. The case is remanded with directions. As part of his plea negotiations, Frazier signed a plea agreement that, in part, purported to preclude any charges in Ohio. This provision is of uncertain enforceability. The Supreme Court holds the defendant did not understandingly sign the plea agreement when he relied on an uncertain provision that works in his favor and he justifiably believed that provision to be a certainty. Accordingly, Frazier has shown good cause and must be allowed to withdraw his plea.

     

    Appeal No. 119,665: State of Kansas v. Nicholas Corbin

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Saline County District Court's denial of Corbin's intellectual disability claim. In 2014, Corbin pleaded no contest to murder of his 2-month old son. The district court rejected his argument he was intellectually disabled. In a 2016 appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case to district court to reconsider its ruling because the applicable law had changed. On remand, the district court complied with the Supreme Court's direction and again denied the intellectual disability claim. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling and held its decision was reasonable and supported by the evidence.

    Appeal No. 119,712: State of Kansas v. Sony Uk

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of Lyon County District Court after Uk appealed his conviction for murder. Uk argued the district court should have given the jury an instruction on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of first-degree murder and the district court's instruction on premeditation was insufficient. The Supreme Court held that the absence of legally sufficient provocation rendered a voluntary manslaughter instruction factually inappropriate, and that the district court did not err by issuing an unmodified instruction defining premeditation from the Pattern Jury Instructions for Kansas.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today

     


  • 17 Apr 2020 4:07 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Some district courts to resume issuing marriage licenses

    Remote process will serve marriage license applicants statewide.

     

    TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court announced today that its Office of Judicial Administration worked with judicial districts to create a process that will allow some district courts to resume issuing marriage licenses while courts remain closed to in-person contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “The demand for marriage licenses continues even as we honor our state’s stay at home order,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “To meet this demand, our courts developed a process that allows a couple to get a marriage license without in-person contact with court staff, which is consistent with our efforts to protect the health of court workers, judges, and the people who need our services.”

    New process starts Monday in select locations

    Luckert said that 10 courts will issue marriage licenses using the new process, and they will begin accepting applications Monday. Applicants must call a court to begin the process.

    “This new process depends on phone, email, and U.S. mail to replace what previously was done in person in the clerk of court office,” Luckert said. “We encourage applicants to be patient with district staff who will be working to meet this need while continuing to operate at reduced staffing in compliance with public health recommendations.”

    Courts that will issue marriage licenses

    People who live in Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee, or Wyandotte county will get their marriage licenses through the district court in their county:

    People who live in other counties will choose from six other court locations to get a marriage license:

    Courts will receive applications by encrypted email or mail

    Marriage license paperwork requires the applicant to provide a photo identification that includes personally identifiable information, such as date of birth, Social Security Number, or driver’s license number. To protect this information, courts will begin an encrypted email exchange with the applicant through which the applicant will return completed paperwork.

    If an applicant does not have email, courts will also send and receive paperwork by U.S. mail.

    Fulfilling the oath requirement

    Marriage license applicants previously were required to appear in person in the clerk of court’s office to swear an oath that includes affirming:

    • they are of lawful age to marry or have necessary consent to marry;
    • are not related in degrees prohibited by law; and
    • no legal reason exists why they should not marry.

    Under the new process, applicants will make this affirmation on paper.

    Prior marriage license applications will not be processed

    If a person submitted a marriage license application before courts closed to in-person contact, and the marriage license was not issued, the person will need to submit a new application to a court issuing marriage licenses using this new process. This applies even if the earlier application was submitted to a court that will now issue marriage licenses, and it is to ensure all requirements are met. 

    Courts on limited operations due to COVID-19 pandemic

    The Supreme Court issued an administrative order placing state courts on emergency operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent orders provided additional guidance to courts, attorneys, and court users.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-016, issued March 18, instructed courts statewide to cease regular operations to minimize or eliminate in-person contact that could put court workers, judges, and the public at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. It specified which functions must be performed by courts and it directed courts to identify essential personnel needed to carry out these functions.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-32, issued April 3, amended Order 2020-PR-016 to clarify that courts continue to perform essential functions and may also perform functions not deemed essential as local resources and circumstances allow.


  • 17 Apr 2020 4:06 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief Judge Robinson has signed Administrative Order 2020-6 regarding public and media access to telephone and video conferences held during the COVID-19 emergency. 

  • 13 Apr 2020 1:11 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The court is pleased to announce the publication of the 2019/2020 Supplement to the 2018 edition of the Rules of Practice and Procedure for the District and Bankruptcy Court of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Except where otherwise noted, the effective date for the District Court rules is April 15, 2020, while the effective date for the Bankruptcy Court rules is March 17, 2020.  For more information, please read the cover letter from Chief Judge Robinson.


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