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  • 06 Nov 2020 2:17 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,301: In the matter of the Parentage of M.F. 

    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court reversed a Butler County District Court decision to deny a petition to establish parentage filed by the former same-sex partner of a biological mother who conceived through artificial insemination. At the time of conception, throughout the pregnancy, and at the time of the birth of the child, the women were involved in a romantic relationship. The relationship ended after the birth. The Supreme Court decided on a 6-1 vote that the Kansas Parentage Act allowed the partner of the biological mother to establish a presumption of parentage, even though she never entered into a written or oral coparenting agreement with the biological mother. In order to obtain ultimate court recognition of the partner’s parentage, evidence must be presented that the biological mother consented at the time of the birth to share her due process right to care, custody, and control of the child. The Supreme Court returned the case to the district court for further proceedings governed by the legal standards set forth in today's opinion.

    Appeal No. 117,496: State of Kansas v. Brian Josh Lutz

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and the decision of Shawnee County District Court to deny Lutz's motion to suppress evidence. Lutz argued the officers involved in his traffic stop detained occupants of the vehicle longer than lawfully permitted to accommodate a planned drug dog investigation of the vehicle. The Supreme Court held the actions of the officers here, including calling for a drug dog, did not measurably extend the duration of the traffic stop beyond the time necessary to achieve the stop's basic objective of processing the observed traffic violation. As such, the district court did not err in denying the motion to suppress. 

    Appeal No. 119,536: In the Matter of the Parentage of W.L. and G.L.

    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court reversed a Crawford County District Court decision to deny a petition to establish parentage filed by the former same-sex partner of a biological mother who conceived through artificial insemination. At the time of conception, throughout the pregnancy, and at the time of the birth of the child, the women were involved in a romantic relationship. The relationship ended after the birth. The Supreme Court decided on a 6-1 vote that the Kansas Parentage Act allowed the partner of the biological mother to establish a presumption of parentage, even though she never entered into a written or oral coparenting agreement with the biological mother. In order to obtain ultimate court recognition of the partner’s parentage, evidence must be presented that the biological mother consented at the time of the birth to share her due process right to care, custody, and control of the child. The Supreme Court returned the case to the district court for further proceedings governed by the legal standards set forth in today's opinion.


  • 06 Nov 2020 2:06 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Pretrial Justice Task Force delivers report to Supreme Court

     

    TOPEKA—After two years of rigorous study and collecting input from a wide range of experts and stakeholders, the Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force delivered its final report to the Kansas Supreme Court today.

    The 84-page Report to the Kansas Supreme Court makes 19 wide-ranging recommendations that include educating courts and the public about liberty as a basic tenet of our criminal justice system, considering amendments to existing laws to allow more options for pretrial supervision, and encouraging the assistance of counsel at the very first hearing before a judge.

    Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of the Kansas Court of Appeals served as chair of the task force. She said the report reflects the many voices of persons who participated in the review, whether as a member of the task force, an expert, or a stakeholder group.

    “Everyone involved was deeply committed to thoroughly reviewing pretrial release from all perspectives to identify how Kansas judges can make informed decisions that respect our constitutional freedoms, uphold public safety, and fulfill the objective of getting people to show up for court,” she said. “The report reflects the ideals and concerns shared by all involved.”

    Arnold-Burger noted research shows that, at any given moment, a little over half of the people in Kansas jails are there solely awaiting trial, unable or unwilling to post the monetary bond required for their release.

    “Money bond is one tool judges use to reduce risk of flight, or to ensure the accused appears in court, but other options could be considered,” Arnold-Burger said. “One is pretrial supervision with no-contact conditions, or drug and alcohol testing, which are designed to protect individual and public safety and to encourage the defendant to appear in court as scheduled.”

    Task force recommendations

    The task force grouped its recommendations in categories based on where they apply in the process, from before arrest to trial. For example, the “general” category covers the need for education about the presumption of innocence and pretrial detention as the exception, as well as the need to collect data to measure the effectiveness of any changes in practice.

    The “pre-charge” category discusses issuing notices to appear rather than arresting people for misdemeanor offenses, connecting people who have mental health or substance abuse issues to needed support before arrest or to treatment as part of a diversion program.

    The “release decision” category discusses the need for uniform pretrial procedures, increased and earlier access to appointed counsel, and piloting more than one pretrial risk assessment approach, after which participating courts would recommend one to use statewide.

    The “post-charge” category discusses the need for post-charge procedures to ensure timely review of release conditions, an option for offenders to voluntarily report after missing a court date to avoid unnecessary arrest, text messages to remind people of their court dates, and several options related to pretrial supervision.

    Each recommendation includes an explanation of the rationale behind it, costs and funding associated with each, what it would take to implement, and a summary of stakeholder concerns.

    Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task force formation and charge

    The Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force was formed in November 2018 to examine current pretrial detention practices for criminal defendants in Kansas district courts, as well as alternatives to pretrial detention used to ensure public safety and encourage the accused to appear for court proceedings.

    The task force was also directed to compare Kansas practices to effective pretrial detention practices and detention alternatives identified by other courts, and to use those comparisons to develop best practices for Kansas district courts.

    The task force’s 15 members include judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and supervision officers.

    Chief justice receives report, thanks task force

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert received the report on behalf of the Supreme Court and thanked the task force and others for their contributions.

    “Best practices for pretrial release and alternatives to detention continue to be a point of state and national discussion, so I’m glad we initiated this comprehensive review when we did,” Luckert said. “This report provides a good foundation for policy discussions as we consider the best ways to manage pretrial concerns in Kansas courts. I appreciate the enormous amount of time and effort put into this report and all the people who played a role in it.”

    ____________________________________

    Executive summary of Report to the Kansas Supreme Court


  • 30 Oct 2020 10:36 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 122,638: In the matter of James W. Fuller

    Archived oral argument video

    In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed with a hearing panel's recommendation to indefinitely suspend Fuller from the practice of law in Kansas. The hearing panel found Fuller engaged in various activities violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct. These included illegally purchasing pharmaceuticals, trading legal services for pharmaceuticals, and failing to provide adequate representation to clients.


  • 23 Oct 2020 9:46 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,131: State of Kansas v. Cecil Meggerson

    Archived oral argument video

    On direct appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Meggerson's several criminal convictions in Wyandotte County District Court, including the attempted capital murder of Deputy Scott Wood. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the court held the State presented sufficient evidence to convict Meggerson of attempted capital murder and Meggerson waived his other sufficiency claims because he failed to argue them. Additionally, the Supreme Court waived Meggerson's claim a search warrant was defective because Meggerson failed to provide necessary documents. Moreover, the Supreme Court held the district court properly admitted Meggerson's jail phone calls because the State laid sufficient foundation for the calls. Next, the Supreme Court held the district court properly admitted K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-455 prior crimes evidence about other robberies because the evidence went to identity, raising a reasonable inference Meggerson committed those robberies and the prior crimes evidence was not unduly prejudicial and admissible. Further, the Supreme Court held the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted two timelines as evidence because the timelines focused on different evidence and were not cumulative. Finding no trial errors, the cumulative error doctrine did not apply.

    Appeal No. 119,871: State of Kansas v. Alex Dee Davis

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Kansas Supreme Court upheld Davis' Sedgwick County convictions and sentence for multiple crimes, including first-degree felony murder. Davis killed another motorist in 2016 while fleeing from a pursing police officer after committing multiple residential break-ins and stealing a car. In his appeal, Davis principally argued he was not attempting to evade capture for a felony, as would have been required to prove one of the inherently dangerous felonies necessary to support the murder conviction, since the officer was not aware of the break-ins or theft. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court ruled the crime turns on the defendant's reason for not wanting to be captured, not the officer's reason for the pursuit. The court also rejected several additional claims that error affected Davis' trial or sentence.

    Appeal No. 120,350: State of Kansas v. Charles D. Bowser

    Archived oral argument video

    On direct appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Bowser's several criminal convictions in Wyandotte County District Court, including the attempted capital murder of Deputy Scott Wood. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the court held the district court did not abandon its neutrality by merely emphasizing the potential benefits of a plea offer and no error occurred. Further, the Supreme Court held the State erred when it said Bowser's vehicle "was seen at the robberies" but the error was harmless in light of the State's presented evidence. The Supreme Court held other prosecutorial claims were supported by evidence and not error. Additionally, the Supreme Court held the district court did not abuse its discretion when answering an ambiguous jury question because the district court's answer followed one of two reasonable interpretations and did not invade the province of the jury. Finding only a single harmless error, the cumulative error doctrine did not apply.


  • 16 Oct 2020 9:56 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,162: State of Kansas v. Christopher M. Dale

    Archived oral argument

    This is Dale's second appeal from his Johnson County convictions. Dale took three individuals' property in one incident. The State charged Dale with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of theft. Each count related to a different victim. In Dale's initial appeal, the Court of Appeals held jury instruction error required a new trial on the aggravated robbery counts but affirmed the theft count. The State retried Dale on the aggravated robbery counts. In Dale's second appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed Dale's theft conviction as a lesser included offense of his aggravated robbery convictions but affirmed his aggravated robbery convictions. On petition for review to the Supreme Court, Dale argued only his lesser included offense of theft could stand because all three counts amounted to one criminal offense in violation of double jeopardy. The Supreme Court affirmed Dale's aggravated robbery convictions. The Supreme Court held if continued prosecution follows a defendant's appeal and a defendant is found guilty of a greater offense after a lesser included offense has been affirmed, a court may generally vacate the sentence for the lesser included offense and impose a sentence for the greater offense. The Supreme Court also held Dale's two aggravated robbery convictions did not violate double jeopardy even though they arose from one transaction because Dale and his companion, while armed with a BB gun, took property in the possession or control of two individuals by force directed at both.

    Appeal No. 118,648: State of Kansas v. Christopher Lee Herring

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision, which affirmed the Sedgwick County District Court's denial of Herring's withdrawal of his plea. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court agreed with Herring that when the district court erred by employing an incorrect legal standard in determining whether to allow Herring to withdraw his plea, the proper disposition is not affirming the district court's denial under a harmless analysis, but reversing the denial and remanding the case to the district court with directions to ensure the correct legal standard is applied.

    Case No. 122,036: In the Matter of Mark D. Murphy, Respondent

    Archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court ordered a two-year suspension of Murphy, an Overland Park attorney, allowing him to apply for probation after the first year. The court found Murphy engaged in serious misconduct when representing both parties in a business transaction. Murphy denied most of the allegations. In its 47-page unanimous decision, the court set out the hearing panel's detailed factual findings and conclusions of law, as well as Murphy's challenges to them. The court concluded clear and convincing evidence supported multiple instances of attorney misconduct and adopted the panel's findings and conclusions. Murphy was admitted to practice law in Kansas in September 1987.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 14 Oct 2020 3:05 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice signs new administrative order continuing suspension of deadlines, time limitations

     

    TOPEKA—Chief Justice Marla Luckert issued a new administrative order today continuing to suspend statutes of limitation, statutory time standards, deadlines, and time limitations started under earlier orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Luckert's action follows the State Finance Council's October 7 decision to extend the COVID-19 state of disaster emergency from October 16 through November 15.

    Luckert said the health and safety of jurors, witnesses, litigants, members of the public, law enforcement officials, court employees, and judges have dictated the flow of judicial proceedings as courts tailor their functions to meet guidance given by local public health officials. She commended the efforts of judges and court employees to meet the challenge to process many cases remotely using videoconferencing and other technology and to conduct in-person proceedings and trials.  

    "Our courts have a done a great job overcoming the many challenges brought about by COVID-19, but the pandemic continues to present some barriers to access to justice," Luckert said. "As long as these barriers exist, Kansans are at substantial risk of forfeiting claims, causes of action, and legal rights if these time requirements are reinstated."  

    Statutory speedy trial provisions in district courts

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-107 continues the suspension of statutory deadlines and time limitations to bring a defendant to trial in district court. The order does not impact a criminal defendants constitutional right to a speedy trial.

    Judicial proceedings

    The order also continues the suspension of statutes of limitations, statutory time standards, or deadlines that apply to conducting or processing judicial proceedings.

    Under the order, no action may be dismissed for lack of prosecution or failure to meet a deadline, except when a judge, appellate judicial officer, or hearing officer exempts a case from the suspension.

    Municipal courts

    The order also continues the suspension of certain deadlines and time standards, including applicable statutory speedy trial provisions, for any municipal court closed or continuing trials because of COVID-19. The suspensions remain in effect until the court reopens and can reasonably place the case on its calendar, or until further order.

    Duration of today's order

    Today's order will remain in effect until further order or it expires under provisions in 2020 House Substitute for Senate Bill 102 as amended by 2020 Spec. Sess. House Bill 2016.

    Case processing

    Courts continue to process cases even while statutes of limitation and statutory time standards or deadlines are suspended. Judges hear many types of proceedings using videoconferencing technology, greatly reducing the need for in-person hearings. And in-person hearings, including jury trials, are also taking place with physical distancing and other precautions.


  • 09 Oct 2020 9:49 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions October 8, 2020

    Appeal No. 117,043: Patrick Whigham vs. Kansas Department of Revenue

    Appeal No. 119,116: Nathan A. Jarvis vs. Kansas Department of Revenue

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    In two cases arising from administrative driver's license suspension proceedings following a motorist's arrest for driving under the influence, the Supreme Court held statutory amendments enacted in 2016 now allow courts to consider constitutional claims during the administrative proceedings and set aside a license suspension if the arrest was unlawful. In Jarvis v. Kansas Department of Revenue, the district court set aside the license suspension after it found that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to make the arrest. The Supreme Court held the 2016 amendments to K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 8-1020 now allow district courts to consider whether the arrest was constitutional and to provide a remedy if a constitutional violation is found.

    In Whigham v. Kansas Department of Revenue, the district court refused to consider whether the arrest was constitutional. Based on Jarvis, the Supreme Court held district courts now have the authority to consider the constitutionality of the arrest, and that in Whigham's case it was error for the district court to refuse to consider the issue. The case was remanded to the district court to consider the lawfulness of the law enforcement encounter. 

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 06 Oct 2020 9:38 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Supreme Court Nominating Commission today voted on the names of three nominees for Supreme Court justice to send to Gov. Laura Kelly.

    A letter from the nominating commission chair will be hand-delivered to the governor’s office during regular business hours Tuesday to formally notify her of the commission’s selection. Its delivery will begin the 60-day timeline the governor has to decide which of the three nominees she will appoint to fill the vacancy created by Justice Carol Beier's September 18 retirement.

    The three nominees are:

    Judge Kim Cudney

    Cudney has been chief judge of the 12th Judicial District since 2006. She previously was in private practice, served as county attorney for Washington County, and worked as a research attorney for U.S. District Chief Judge Patrick Kelly and Kansas Supreme Court Justice Harold Herd. She graduated from Kansas State University and Washburn University School of Law. She lives in Greenleaf.

    Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge

    Standridge has been a Kansas Court of Appeals judge since February 2008. She previously was chambers counsel to U.S. District Magistrate Judge David Waxse and U.S. District Judge Elmo Hunter and a lawyer with the Shook, Hardy, and Bacon law firm. She graduated from the University of Kansas and the University of MIssouri-Kansas City School of Law. She lives in Leawood.

    Kristen Wheeler

    Wheeler has been law clerk for U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten since 2018. She previously was in private practice at Robinson Law Firm and Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock and Kennedy. She graduated from the University of Kansas and Washburn University School of Law. She lives in Wichita.

    Public interviews

    The commission interviewed 11 applicants in the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka before narrowing the list of nominees to three through successive rounds of voting. All interviews and voting were open to the public and livestreamed on YouTube.

    Merit selection process

    Supreme Court justices are appointed through a merit-based nomination process that Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.

    When there is a vacancy on the court, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission has 60 days from the date the vacancy occurs to submit names of three qualified nominees to the governor.

    After receiving the list of nominees, the governor has 60 days to appoint one of them to the court.

    The commission announces when it is accepting nominations, and it releases the names of who is being considered based on the nominations received.

    The commission reviews the nominees' qualifications and conducts public interviews of the nominees. Through this process, the commission decides which three nominees to recommend to the governor.

    Eligibility requirements

    To be eligible, a nominee must be: 

    • at least 30 years old; and 
    • a lawyer admitted to practice in Kansas and engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years, whether as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at an accredited law school. 

    Selection criteria

    When the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews nominees for the Supreme Court, they look at the person’s: 

    • legal and judicial experience;

    • educational background;

    • character and ethics;

    • temperament;

    • service to the community;

    • impartiality; and

    • respect of colleagues.

    Code of judicial conduct

    Justices must follow the law and not be influenced by politics, special interest groups, public opinion, or their own personal beliefs.

    Justices demonstrate their accountability by following a Code of Judicial Conduct that establishes standards of ethical behavior. They also take an oath of office that includes swearing to support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and Kansas Constitution.

    Retention elections

    After a new justice serves one year on the court, he or she must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to remain in the position. If retained, the justice serves a six-year term.

    Supreme Court Nominating Commission

    The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has nine members. There is one lawyer and one nonlawyer from each of the state’s four congressional districts, plus one lawyer who serves as chairperson. Nonlawyers are appointed by the governor. Lawyers are elected by other lawyers within their congressional districts. The chairperson is elected by lawyers statewide.


  • 01 Oct 2020 1:54 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court has adopted Rule 124 to allow courts to collect contact information from witnesses and potential jurors who volunteer it to help with case processing, scheduling, or participation in a hearing or trial.

    Contact information will include current mailing address, phone number, and email address. The contact information is not a public record under the Kansas Open Records Act, and it will not be disclosed to anyone outside the courts.

    Courts will use the contact information as a service to potential jurors and witnesses. It may be used to remind witnesses to appear or to alert jurors of last-minute instructions for reporting. The rule will also help prevent unnecessary trips to the courthouse in the event a hearing is canceled or rescheduled.

    Supreme Court Rule 124 includes provisions for retaining and ultimately disposing of contact information courts collect.

  • 28 Sep 2020 11:52 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas judicial branch will use a $3.52 million grant to pay for pandemic-related expenses and help courts shift to more online and remote services.

    "The pandemic challenged our courts to reimagine how we serve the people of Kansas,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “We have embraced new ways of operating and are making greater use of technology to provide more service online and remotely. The immediate focus was health protection, but the results are increased transparency and more efficient and user-friendly courts."

    The State Finance Council approved the grant from federal coronavirus relief funds on September 17, following a recommendation from the governor's Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Task Force.

    Grant money will pay for immediate needs, such as personal protective equipment and additional technology. The money also will be used to expand online services, making it easier for people to apply for a marriage license or watch a virtual court proceeding.

    Court operations

    The largest portion of the grant—$3.35 million—will help courts comply with public health guidelines during the pandemic.

    The grant will pay for:

    • plexiglass shields, masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and cleaner to protect court users and staff in court offices and courtrooms;

    • additional equipment to expand our capacity for virtual court hearings that provide easy public and media access to court proceedings; and

    • temporary funding for five information technology employees through December 2020 to help courts with immediate and expanding needs for videoconferencing, internet streaming, and audiovisual equipment.

    Specialty courts

    For the several judicial districts that operate specialty courts—including drug, behavioral or mental health, truancy, and veteran’s treatment court—regular, frequent contact is needed to address underlying reasons a person becomes involved in the criminal justice system.

    Grant funding will allow these courts to purchase smartphones and tablets for continuous, reliable access to remote meetings between specialty court team members and court participants. Consistent contact makes it more likely participants will remain in their treatment programs and communities, meeting two primary objectives of these specialty courts. 

    Online marriage license portal

    A new marriage license portal will allow a couple to apply online for a license. The applicants will be able to use digital signatures, upload required documents, and pay the marriage license fee.

    Before the pandemic, a couple seeking a marriage license would appear in person at a courthouse to swear an oath and submit information and identification to court staff. When the pandemic forced courts to limit in-person service, courts found a temporary solution for processing applications using encrypted email. The portal will replace that temporary solution.

    Text notification system

    During the pandemic, courts have had to reschedule court hearings to manage the number of people in a courthouse at one time. The text notification system will allow courts to quickly communicate changes to court participants who ask for the alerts. Messages could include information about newly scheduled hearings, reminders of hearing dates, and payment notifications. It will be automated through the centralized case management system currently being installed.

    Similar text notification systems used in other state court systems have reduced failure to appear rates and the need to reschedule missed hearings.

    Virtual court directory

    An online virtual court directory will provide a central location for anyone to see a virtual court proceeding open to the public. The portal will list judges by judicial district and provide links to livestreamed court proceedings and dockets.



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