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  • 08 Jan 2021 10:19 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,725: Howard Johnson III v. U.S. Food Service

    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the decision of the Workers Compensation Board. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court applied the rule of constitutional avoidance and held a 2013 amendment to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act did not change the essential legal standard for determining functional impairment under the statute, which must still be established by competent medical evidence.

    Appeal No. 119,881: State of Kansas v. Rodney J. Hooks

    Summary calendar; no oral argument 

    The Kansas Supreme Court remanded Hooks' appeal of the denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence and K.S.A. 60-1507 motion to Sedgwick County District Court. Hooks filed the motions in 2017. The district court denied Hooks' motions. Hooks filed an untimely notice of appeal. In response to a show cause order, Hooks argued the Supreme Court should maintain jurisdiction under the "unique circumstances doctrine." The Supreme Court reaffirmed the "unique circumstances doctrine" is not an acceptable source of jurisdiction for Kansas appellate courts. Instead, the Supreme Court held that while other due process concerns may entitle Hooks to an untimely appeal, a district court must first make factual findings establishing Hooks' eligibility for consideration of an untimely notice of appeal.


    Appeal No. 120,390: State of Kansas v. David Patrick McNabb

    Summary calendar; no oral argument 

    The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed McNabb's four criminal convictions, including two counts of first-degree premeditated murder. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held Linn County District Court did not abuse its discretion when it denied McNabb's motion for a downward durational sentencing departure. Further, the Supreme Court held the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered McNabb's two hard-50 life sentences to run concurrently.




  • 07 Jan 2021 3:25 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Press Release Regarding Jury Trials

    Due to health and safety concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Shawnee County District Court will not conduct any jury trials before April 5, 2021.  The Court is committed to ensuring the health and safety of jurors, defendants, court staff, and attorneys.



  • 07 Jan 2021 11:46 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court appointed Judge David Bruns to complete an unexpired term on the Kansas Board of Law Examiners.

    Bruns has served on the Kansas Court of Appeals since 2011. He succeeds Melissa Taylor Standridge, who was appointed a Kansas Supreme Court justice in November. Standridge previously was a Court of Appeals judge.

    Bruns will serve through June 30, 2023.

    Before his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Bruns was a district court judge in the 3rd Judicial District, composed of Shawnee County, and a private practice lawyer.

    The 10-member Kansas Board of Law Examiners is composed of lawyers and judges. They oversee all matters relating to applications for admission, character and fitness, testing accommodations, temporary permits to practice, and legal intern permits.

    Other members of the board are:

    • Carol Park, chair, a lawyer at Schwartz & Park, Hays;

    • Molly Wood, vice chair, a lawyer at Stevens & Brand, Lawrence;

    • David Cooper, a partner at Fisher Patterson Sayler & Smith, Topeka;

    • Christina Holland, chief counsel for the Internal Revenue Service, Kansas City, Missouri;

    • Patrick Hughes, a lawyer at Adams Jones, Wichita;

    • Jacy Hurst, a lawyer and partner at Kutak Rock, Kansas City, Missouri;

    • Peter Johnston, a lawyer at Clark Mize & Linville, Salina;

    • Larkin Walsh, a lawyer at Sharp Law, Prairie Village; and

    • Edward Watson, a lawyer and partner at Foulston Siefkin, Wichita.


  • 04 Jan 2021 9:00 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court adopts rule changes related to attorney discipline, Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection

     

    The Kansas Supreme Court has adopted changes to the rules relating to the discipline of attorneys and the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, effective January 1, 2021.

    Attorney discipline

    The changes to rules relating to attorney discipline are extensive and overhaul the existing rules to align with other Supreme Court rules, increase efficiency, clarify the disciplinary process, and codify existing practices. 

    The changes create separate rules for each subject and reorder the rules to better reflect how a complaint moves through the attorney disciplinary process.

    New provisions in the rules outlined in Administrative Order 2020-RL-134 include:

    • additional definitions for greater clarity;

    • new deadlines for the disciplinary administrator and the respondent to promote an efficient hearing process;

    • a clear process for respondents to request subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify at disciplinary hearings;

    • expanded use of depositions in attorney disciplinary cases;

    • a procedure for parties, by agreement, to submit a disciplinary case directly to the Supreme Court and forgo a hearing before the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys; and

    • a provision that addresses using expert witnesses in disciplinary proceedings.

    The changes also move the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct from Rule 226 to Rule 240. There are no changes to the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct.

    Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection

    Amendments to the rule relating to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection outlined in Administrative Order 2020-RL-135 include:

    • moving the rule from Rule 227 to Rule 241;

    • amendments to transfer administrative duties from the Office of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts to the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator;

    • extensive restyling and retooling amendments to align this rule with other Supreme Court rules; and

    • minor amendments for clarity.

    The changes do not substantively affect the consideration of claims made to the Client Protection Fund Commission, which will now be made to the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator.


  • 23 Dec 2020 2:28 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,310: State of Kansas v. Phillip Jermaine Stanley

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    On direct appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Stanley's first-degree murder conviction. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held Stanley failed to preserve his claim a witness' "double memories" were a fundamental trial failure because Stanley objected on other grounds at trial. Further, the Supreme Court upheld Johnson County District Court's use of additional language in the premeditation jury instruction as both legally and factually appropriate under State v. Bernhardt, 304 Kan. 460, 372 P.3d 1161 (2016). Moreover, the Supreme Court held premeditated first-degree murder and intentional second-degree murder are not identical offenses and the Kansas premeditated first-degree murder statute is not unconstitutionally vague. Finding no error, the Supreme Court found Stanley's claim of cumulative error meritless.


    Appeal No. 120,481: State of Kansas v. Donnell Stafford

    Summary calendar; no oral argument 

    On direct appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Stafford's first-degree murder and two cruelty to animals convictions. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held additional language in the premeditation jury instruction was legally and factually appropriate under State v. Bernhardt, 304 Kan. 460, 372 P.3d 1161 (2016). Moreover, the Supreme Court held a heat of passion voluntary manslaughter instruction would not have been factually appropriate, so Sedgwick County District Court did not err in refusing to give one. The Supreme Court also held a nurse's testimony did not violate the Confrontation Clause because the statements were for a medical purpose. Finally, finding no error, the Supreme Court held the cumulative error doctrine did not apply.


  • 18 Dec 2020 9:37 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,103: State of Kansas v. Quincy R.T. Carter

    Archived oral argument video

    Carter appeals from his Sedgwick County convictions for two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm, and one count of criminal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to two consecutive hard-25 life sentences plus 53 months. This is a companion case to State v. Carter, 311 Kan. 783, 466 P.3d 1180 (2020), an appeal taken by another defendant convicted on charges arising from the same incident. Writing for a unanimous Kansas Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings by the trial court that Carter was not denied his right to a public trial and found no error in the admission of testimony contradicting Carter's alibi. The Supreme Court also found no error in the admission of evidence of gang participation and expert evidence regarding the interpretation of an e-mail Carter sent from prison.

    Appeal No. 121,203: State of Kansas v. Zachary Buck-Schrag 

    Archived oral argument video

    Buck-Schrag shot and killed Travis Larsen after Larsen's car collided with the back of a car in which Buck-Schrag was riding. Buck-Schrag claimed he shot Larsen in self-defense, but a Shawnee County jury convicted Buck-Schrag of first-degree felony murder and reckless second-degree murder in the alternative. It also convicted him of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a firearm. Writing for a unanimous Kansas Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen affirmed the convictions after holding the prosecutor did not err when he said to the jury "this is not the Wild West, and this is not 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.' We simply cannot go around killing one another with guns just because we are afraid." The court ruled the comments were not error because they were made while arguing the defendant cannot use deadly force based on subjective fear alone. The court also concluded there was sufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt Buck-Schrag did not act in self-defense and the standard pattern jury instructions adequately informed the jury of the State's obligation to prove Buck-Schrag's guilt. It declined to review for the first time on appeal Buck-Schrag's argument the identical offense doctrine required him to be sentenced based on the lower alternative conviction of second-degree murder. Finally, it affirmed the district court's order that Buck-Schrag pay $7,000 in attorney fees. 


  • 18 Dec 2020 9:36 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Applying for a marriage license in Kansas is about to get easier and more convenient, thanks to a grant-funded project to move most of the process online. 

    Starting December 18, couples applying for a marriage license in Kansas will be able to complete the application online at www.kscourts.org/marriage. The only requirement is that an applicant has an email address. 

    “The pandemic challenged our courts to reimagine how we serve the people of Kansas and moving the marriage license application online is one example,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “This change makes applying for a license faster and easier, and it gives Kansans the type of online service they expect.”

    The Office of Judicial Administration and NIC Kansas developed the online marriage license application, a service that allows Kansas couples to apply for a license at any time from any location, even using their smartphones. 

    "Our NIC team could not be more excited to see this enhancement made,” said Nolan Jones, NIC Kansas general manager. “Transforming this service into an online version was a great advancement that will support so many of our fellow Kansans.”

    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 entirely through encrypted email. The online application replaces all but the final step, which is to deliver the marriage license to the applicant by encrypted email.

    “Our courts were able to quickly adopt a remote marriage license application process at the beginning of the pandemic, but this online option provides a permanent solution,” said Nancy Dixon, judicial administrator for the Kansas judicial branch. “We are eager for Kansans planning to marry soon to be among the first to try it.”

    The project to create an online marriage license application was funded by a grant approved by the State Finance Council from federal coronavirus relief funds, following a recommendation from the governor's Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Task Force. 

    About NIC Kansas

    Headquartered in Topeka, NIC Kansas is a division of NIC Inc. and a proud partner of the State of Kansas and INK. NIC Kansas is committed to making government services accessible to all through innovative digital solutions.

    About NIC

    NIC (Nasdaq: EGOV) is a leading digital government solutions and payments company, serving more than 7,000 federal, state, and local government agencies across the nation. With headquarters in Olathe and offices in 28 states, NIC partners with government to deliver user-friendly digital services that make it easier and more efficient to interact with government—providing valuable conveniences like applying for unemployment insurance, submitting business filings, renewing licenses, accessing information, and making secure payments without visiting a government office. In the COVID-19 era and beyond, NIC helps government agencies rapidly deliver new digital solutions to provide essential services to citizens and businesses alike. Having served the public sector for nearly 30 years, NIC continues to evolve with its federal, state, and local government partners to deliver innovative and cost-effective digital government to constituents. Learn more at www.egov.com.


  • 16 Dec 2020 8:40 AM | 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 to issue Administrative Order 2020-PR-130 follows the State Finance Council's December 11, 2020, decision extending the COVID-19 state of disaster emergency from December 16 through January 10, 2021.

    Luckert said the health and safety of jurors, witnesses, litigants, members of the public, law enforcement officials, court employees, and judges drove her decision to continue the suspensions.

      

    For all court actions related to the pandemic, visit Kansas courts response to COVID-19.


  • 09 Dec 2020 2:32 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Court issued Administrative Order 2020-13 suspending all in-person civil and criminal jury trials, and all in-person hearings and bench trials scheduled to commence between now and February 15, 2021. Any existing grand jury may meet subject to the discretion of the U.S. Attorney and the Court. Emergency in-person hearings may be conducted if determined necessary by the presiding Judicial Officer.  Emergencies may include initial appearances for someone who has been arrested, and detention hearings, when a virtual hearing is not possible.  Other terms of Amended Order 2020-11 remain in effect

    Kansas City
    500 State Ave.
    Kansas City, KS 66101
    913-735-2200

    Topeka
    444 S.E. Quincy.
    Topeka, KS 66683
    785-338-5400 

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  • 04 Dec 2020 10:20 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 112,322: State of Kansas v. Guadalupe Ochoa-Lara

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    In an identity theft case remanded from the U.S. Supreme Court after holding a state prosecution for identity theft was not preempted by federal immigration law, the Kansas Supreme Court considered the underlying question of whether Ochoa-Lara's convictions for two counts of identity theft were multiplicitous and thus violated the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution. The State had split the charge into two based on a change in the statute enacted during the time period in which the conduct happened. The Kansas Supreme Court held Ochoa-Lara failed to object in Johnson County District Court and thus failed to preserve the issue for appellate review. Ochoa-Lara also failed to cite any of the exceptions that would allow a court to consider an issue raised for the first time on appeal. Ochoa-Lara's convictions were affirmed.


    Appeal No. 118,361: State of Kansas v. Samuel Vonachen.

    Archived oral argument video

    The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Vonachen's convictions in Reno County of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of aggravated arson. He burned down his family home while his parents and young sister were sleeping inside. His mother and sister died from the fire; his father survived. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court rejected Vanachen's various constitutional claims. As to the certification to try him as an adult, the court held the district court properly authorized Vonachen's adult prosecution.

    Appeal No. 119,302: State of Kansas v. Gregory Lynn Gales

    Summary calendar; no oral argument 

    The Kansas Supreme Court vacated Gales' Edwards County sentence for a 2001 second-degree murder conviction and remanded for resentencing. When the original sentence was imposed, a California burglary from Gales' youth was counted as a "person" crime for the purposes of applying Kansas sentencing guidelines, which resulted in a longer sentence than if the burglary was considered a "nonperson" crime. The statute for determining which classification to apply to a prior crime required the sentencing court to determine the most comparable Kansas offense. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court held the California burglary must be considered a "nonperson" crime in Gales' case, since the California statute was equally comparable to both "person" and "nonperson" versions of burglary in Kansas.

    Appeal No. 121,832: State of Kansas v. Phillip R. Parks

    Summary calendar; no oral argument 

    The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Parks' challenge to a life prison sentence he received in 1997 in Reno County for murdering his wife in 1978. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court held the sentence was consistent with the statutory requirements existing at the time of the crime.


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