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  • 24 Aug 2020 11:06 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Message to TBA Membership from the Human Rights Commission Board:

    The purpose of this e-mail is to inform you that the Kansas Human Rights (KHRC) Commission Board met this morning, August 21, 2020, to consider the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and its impact on the KHRC’s interpretation of the Kansas Act Against Discrimination.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock determined that Title VII’s “sex” discrimination prohibition includes employment discrimination on the basis of homosexuality and transgender status.  Effective today, the Kansas Human Rights Commission will begin accepting complaints of “sex” discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations wherein allegations include discrimination based on LGBTQ and all derivates of “sex”.

    A guidance document will be forthcoming that the Kansas Act Against Discrimination’s employment, housing, and public accommodation anti-discrimination provisions for “sex” are inclusive of LGBTQ and all derivates of “sex”.   The guidance document will be submitted to the Commission Board for their review and approval at a date in the near future, but yet to be determined.  The guidance will be issued pursuant to K.S.A. 77-438.  We will send out another notification when the guidance document is posted to the Commission’s website of www.khrc.net.



  • 21 Aug 2020 10:14 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions August 21, 2020

    Appeal No.118,336: State of Kansas vs. Thad Christopher Green

    Archived oral argument 

    The Supreme Court affirmed Green's convictions after jury trial in Montgomery County District Court. Green was convicted in the death of Cameron Wawrzynaik, who was Green's ex-wife's boyfriend. In December 2015, Green drove to Wawrzynaik's house, entered, and shot and killed Wawrzynaik. Green then set the house on fire and left. After Green was found guilty by a jury, the district court judge sentenced Green to a hard-50 life sentence for first-degree premeditated murder, 34 months for aggravated burglary, and 19 months for arson. On appeal, Green raised multiple issues. The Supreme Court concluded none of the issues warranted reversal of Green's convictions or sentences. Of note, the Supreme Court held the evidence in the case did not support Green's desired defense of voluntary intoxication because there was no evidence Green was impaired to the point it would have made it impossible for him to form the criminal intent necessary for premeditated murder.

    Appeal No.118,941: State of Kansas vs. Christopher Shawn Pattillo

    Archived oral argument

    Pattillo drove a van from which a passenger fired shots, killing Brian Miller and hitting a residence occupied by Miller's seven-year-old nephew. A Shawnee County jury convicted Pattillo of felony murder, aggravated assault of Miller, felony discharge of a firearm, and aggravated endangering of a child. Pattillo appealed to the Supreme Court, raising 10 issues about whether the underlying felonies, as a matter of law, support Pattillo's felony-murder conviction and his sentences, whether the State met its burden of proving the underlying felonies and felony murder, and whether the trial judge erred in instructing the jury. The Supreme Court found no reversible errors and affirmed Pattillo's convictions and sentences. It also held sufficient evidence supported Pattillo's underlying felonies. The Supreme Court affirmed the felony murder conviction based on the underlying inherently dangerous felonies of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling and aggravated endangering of a child.

    Appeal No.121,040: State of Kansas vs. Quinton Moore

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Moore's Reno County conviction of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Clarence Allen. On appeal, Moore argued his jury should not have been shown his police interrogation tape, it should have been instructed about voluntary intoxication, and the prosecutor committed error in closing argument by suggesting a motive for the crime not supported by the evidence. The Supreme Court held it was not error for the jury to watch the interrogation tape and Moore was not entitled to a voluntary intoxication instruction. The Supreme Court did rule the prosecutor erred by speculating about a motive unsupported by evidence but concluded this error was harmless in light of the overwhelming case against Moore, including his confession to the crime. 

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 14 Aug 2020 11:33 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Announcements from the 3rd Judicial District Court Administrator 


    1. ELEVATOR 

    Beginning Monday, August 17, 2020, and continuing at least until September 30, 2020, the Shawnee Courthouse will have only one elevator available to the public and court staff.  Elevator occupancy is limited to two individuals at any one time due to the precautions necessitated by the COVID 19 Pandemic. While the courthouse has several stairways, because of the mandate for social distancing, the mandatory mask requirement, and the need to provide thorough cleaning, heavy stairway traffic is not a viable option to serve the needs of the public and court staff. In addition, the lack of adequate elevator facilities makes accessibility difficult for the public and court staff. Until the elevator repairs are completed, the court will remain open, but many cases currently scheduled for hearing will need to be continued.  The court will strive to ensure that essential functions are performed while limiting the need for the public to come to the courthouse in person.

    2. JURY TRIALS

    Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-PR-093, filed August 4, 2020, permits jury trials to proceed after the chief judge has complied with the following:  1) consulted with the head of the local public health department to determine how to resume jury proceedings given local risk and the facilities available and 2) developed written plans approved by the Office of Judicial Administration for implementing the Supreme court mandates regarding resuming jury proceedings.  The plans for the 3rd Judicial District are being developed but have not been submitted yet. Given the amount of time necessary to get the plan submitted and approved in addition to the necessary lead time for sending summons to prospective jurors, it is unlikely that jury trials will resume until the week of October 19, 2020 or after.   The court will provide an update regarding the plan to resume jury trials in approximately 30 days. 


  • 06 Aug 2020 1:45 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice announces changes in Supreme Court staff

     

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert announced changes in job duties for four Supreme Court staff.

    General counsel

    Ashley Jarmer is named general counsel to the chief justice.

    She has been a research attorney for the chief justice since August 2019. She previously was a research attorney for Supreme Court Justice Lee Johnson and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard Greene.

    Jarmer is a native of Cimarron. She graduated summa cum laude from Kansas State University and received her law degree from William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she was president of the Honor Council.

    Jarmer previously worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation Office of Chief Counsel as a personnel attorney.

    Director of Supreme Court appeals

    Sarah Reichert is named director of Supreme Court appeals.

    She will report directly to and assist the chief justice in the management of the Supreme Court docket and processing of cases. She will supervise the court’s central research staff that is charged with researching and preparing memoranda for the court on death penalty appeals, original actions, petitions for review, motions, and special projects.

    Reichert is a native of Mankato. She graduated cum laude from both Kansas State University and Washburn University School of Law.

    Reichert clerked in the Kansas Court of Appeals for two years before joining the Supreme Court's staff in 2006. She has served in the court's central staff, as a research attorney for Justice Luckert, as the court's motions attorney, and as assistant general counsel to the chief justice. She chairs the Supreme Court Rules Committee.

    The positions filled by Jarmer and Reichert have been vacant for several months.

    Deputy special counsel

    Sarah Hoskinson, deputy special counsel to the chief justice, will have expanded duties assisting with special projects and committees.

    She has been deputy special counsel to the chief justice since 2017 and works to organize and develop the Kansas judicial branch's legislative program. She previously was a staff attorney for the Office of Judicial Administration.

    She will continue to work with Shawn Jurgensen, who is special counsel to the chief justice.

    Hoskinson is a native of Burrton. She graduated from the University of Kansas with highest distinction and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

    Hoskinson also has worked as an attorney for the City of Manhattan, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Bar Association of San Francisco's Homeless Advocacy Project. She completed three years of national service in AmeriCorps VISTA and Equal Justice Works programs.

    Research attorney

    Jonathan Ruhlen will fill the chief's staff as research attorney II.

    He was a research attorney for Justice Johnson from 2016 to 2019, when he joined the chief justice's staff.

    Ruhlen is a native of Valley Falls. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2005 and worked as a reporter for various daily newspapers in Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2012.

    Ruhlen worked in bankruptcy law, including a clerkship with now-retired Judge Janice Miller Karlin, chief of the Bankruptcy Court of the District of Kansas and chief of the 10th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.


  • 05 Aug 2020 8:59 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court issues administrative orders, guidance for courts to safely resume jury trials

     

    The Kansas Supreme Court today issued two administrative orders and a mandates and guidance document to give direction to courts as they prepare to safely resume jury trials.

    The orders and the guidance document incorporate best practices recommended in the report Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 the Supreme Court received last week from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.

    “At the beginning of the pandemic, we canceled jury trials to comply with statewide efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “Since then, through innovation and access to videoconferencing technology, state courts have resumed hearing most cases with the exception of jury trials.”

     

    The Supreme Court created the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force in early June specifically to recommend best practices courts will follow to protect the health of jurors and other courtroom participants so jury trials can resume.

    "I speak for the entire court when I say I am grateful for the time task force members devoted to this project and for the speed at which they produced their report," Luckert said.

    The Supreme Court Mandates and Guidance Regarding Resuming Jury Proceedings spells out the Supreme Court’s requirements for courts based on recommendations made in the report from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.

    “Many variables impact which task force recommendations a court will need to adopt, including the physical layout of the court, local needs, and available resources,” Luckert said. “The mandates and guidance document articulates the Supreme Court’s expectations to provide for juror education and safety, and public and media access to proceedings.”

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-093 requires each judicial district to submit a plan for resuming jury trials to the Office of Judicial Administration, which will review the plans to verify that the Supreme Court’s mandates are met.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-094 extends the requirement that masks or facial coverings be worn in all court offices and courtrooms to any outdoor court proceedings.

    The report Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force includes recommendations on these key topics:

    • adding numerous safeguards to protect jurors;

    • communicating with jurors pretrial and during orientation;

    • securing adequate jury pools;

    • using pretrial measures to minimize the length of jury service;

    • conducting a fair trial while protecting juror and court participant safety; and

    • best practices for virtual trials.

    In its report, the task force acknowledged there is no single approach and that the state's 31 judicial districts are vastly different in terms of facilities, technology, and resources.


  • 04 Aug 2020 9:31 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert said today she will not reinstate statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines that apply to conducting or processing of judicial proceedings on August 17.

    Luckert had announced June 29 she planned to reinstate most time requirements effective August 3, based on the assumption that all district courts would be providing in-person service at that time.

    Due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in some jurisdictions, some courts closed offices to the public after Luckert's June 29 announcement. In response, Luckert adjusted her timeline and announced she would provide an update today about a projected date to reinstate some time limits, deadlines, and time standards. She also said that the reinstatement would not occur before August 17.

    As of today, some court offices remain closed to the public. Luckert will continue to monitor the situation and will provide at least two weeks' notice before reinstating any deadlines.

    “All district courts are now able to process cases remotely, but I need to be sure all courts can also provide some level of in-person service before I reinstate timelines and deadlines,” Luckert said.

    The Kansas Supreme Court is seeking grant funding to develop alternative methods to deliver services to the people of Kansas so deadlines can be reinstated without fear someone will be unable to access the courts and lose the ability to protect a constitutional right or to prosecute a cause of action.

    Luckert said she will provide periodic updates because she wants Kansans and their attorneys to have adequate notice of her plan to reinstate statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines. Once reinstated, courts, attorneys, and self-represented parties must be ready to move cases forward or accept consequences for missing deadlines or statutes of limitations, which can cause cases to be dismissed.

    Luckert plans to continue the suspension of some time limitations. Those would include statutory speedy trial deadlines in criminal cases, the time requirements for filing actions under K.S.A. 60-1501 and K.S.A. 60-1507, and the time requirements for processing limited actions cases in K.S.A. 61-3002(b).

    Even while statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines have been suspended, courts have continued to process cases. All state courts are conducting many types of proceedings using teleconferencing technology, greatly reducing the need for in-person hearings.

  • 03 Aug 2020 10:25 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Keynen "KJ" Wall Jr., Lawrence, will be sworn in as a justice of the Kansas Supreme Court in a private ceremony at 11 a.m. today, August 3, at the Kansas Judicial Center.

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert will preside at the ceremony, which will be broadcast live on the Supreme Court YouTube channel.

    The ceremony will be considerably smaller than a typical swearing-in due to the need to allow for physical distancing. Wall's immediate family will attend the ceremony, as will Supreme Court Justices Eric Rosen and Evelyn Wilson. Assistant Secretary of State Catherine Gunsalus also will attend to present the certificate of appointment.

    Justices usually are sworn in in the Kansas Supreme Court courtroom filled with current and past Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges, federal judges, district court judges, members of the legislative and executive branches, law related organizations, and the justice's family members and friends. An overflow audience would view a livestream of the event in a secondary courtroom.

    Governor Laura Kelly appointed Wall in March to fill a vacancy on the court created when former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December.

    Wall has a bachelor's degree in communication from Kansas State University, a master's degree in scientific and technical communication from the University of Minnesota, and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.

    He had been in private practice with the Forbes Law Group of Overland Park since 2015. From 2013 to 2015 he was special projects counsel to the Supreme Court, which involved managing the court's capital appeals office. From 2008 to 2013 he was senior legal counsel for Federated Insurance in Owatonna, Minnesota, and from 2004 to 2008, he was an associate attorney with a law firm in Greeley, Colorado. He was a judicial law clerk from 2002 to 2004 for Judge John Lungstrum, when Lungstrum was chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.


  • 27 Jul 2020 10:12 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions on July 24, 2020

    Appeal No. 115,650: John Balbirnie vs. State of Kansas

    Archived oral argument 

    The Supreme Court reversed Balbirnie's Franklin County jury conviction for second-degree murder and remanded the case to the district court for a new trial. The Supreme Court held Balbirnie, who has consistently and repeatedly maintained his innocence, was entitled to a new trial because his appointed trial counsel ineffectively represented him by failing to admit into evidence a recording of a 911 call made while the fight leading to the victim's death was ongoing. During the 911 call, the caller said another person—the caller's fiancé—stabbed the victim. The omission of this call undermined confidence in the outcome of the trial as the evidence supporting the verdict conflicted, the 911 call underscored questions about the credibility of those who attributed the fatal stab wound to Balbirnie, and the other evidence presented at trial did not remove the potential for reasonable doubt about Balbirnie's guilt.

    Appeal No. 115,990: State of Kansas vs. Robbie A. Thomas

    Archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court held the cumulative effect of multiple errors during a Chautauqua County jury trial required reversal of the defendant's conviction for aggravated battery but affirmed his convictions for child abuse and aggravated endangering of a child. The Supreme Court found the State failed to prove there was no reasonable probability a jury instruction that misstated the law regarding aggravated battery, combined with a prosecutor's improper statements during closing, did not affect the jury's verdict for the aggravated battery charge. The court also remanded for resentencing after finding the defendant's criminal history score was incorrect due to a misclassification of a prior Virginia conviction.

    Appeal No. 119,739: State of Kansas vs. De'Angelo Megle Martinez 

    Archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the defendant's murder conviction in Shawnee County after finding a prosecutor's statements did not impermissibly shift the burden of proof to the defendant, nor did the statements infringe on the defendant's constitutional protection against self-incrimination. During closing arguments, the State responded to the defense counsel's attack on the credibility of witnesses by pointing out the State had presented evidence, whereas the defense theory was based on speculation. The court held that, when viewed in context, the comments were a fair comment on the evidence presented and did not impermissibly shift the burden of proof to the defendant nor did they amount to a comment on the defendant's decision not to testify.  

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 27 Jul 2020 10:06 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice gives update on plan to reinstate time limitations and deadlines for court proceedings

     

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert said today she has adjusted her plan to reinstate statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines that apply to conducting or processing of judicial proceedings.

    Luckert had announced June 29 she planned to reinstate most time requirements effective August 3, based on the assumption that all district courts would be providing in-person service at that time.

    Due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in some jurisdictions, some courts have closed offices to the public. In response, Luckert is adjusting her timeline and now plans to provide an update on August 3 about a projected date to reinstate some time limits, deadlines, and time standards. She emphasized reinstatement will not be before August 17.

    “My actions to suspend some deadlines and time limitations at the beginning of the pandemic were to uphold peoples’ legal and constitutional rights while courts made changes to case processing to adhere to public health guidelines,” Luckert said. “All district courts are now able to process cases remotely, but I need to be sure all courts can also provide some level of in-person service before I reinstate timelines and deadlines.”

    Luckert said she’s providing this update because she wants to be sure Kansans and their attorneys have adequate notice of her plan to reinstate statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines. Once reinstated, courts, attorneys, and self-represented parties must be ready to move cases forward or accept consequences for missing deadlines or statutes of limitations, which can cause cases to be dismissed.

    Luckert plans to continue the suspension of some time limitations. Those would include statutory speedy trial deadlines in criminal cases, the time requirements for filing actions under K.S.A. 60-1501 and K.S.A. 60-1507, and the time requirements for processing limited actions cases in K.S.A. 61-3002(b).

    Even while statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines have been suspended, courts have continued to process cases. All state courts are conducting many types of proceedings using teleconferencing technology, greatly reducing the need for in-person hearings.

    __________________________

    Visit Kansas Courts Reponse to COVID-19 for information about court operations during the pandemic. 



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