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  • 10 Jul 2020 1:57 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions June 10, 2020:

    Appeal No. 116,649: State of Kansas v. Anthony Michael Brazzle

    Archived oral argument 

    The Supreme Court affirmed Brazzle's drug-related convictions, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of oxycodone. The Supreme Court held Riley County District Court did not err by allowing the State to present evidence Brazzle sold methamphetamine to undercover detectives about a week before the car stop leading to the convictions at issue. The evidence was material to the disputed question of whether Brazzle intended to personally use or distribute the drugs found in the car. And the risk of undue prejudice to Brazzle did not substantially outweigh the evidence's probative value. The Supreme Court also affirmed the Court of Appeals' holding that because Brazzle advocated for the version of the possession of oxycodone jury instruction the district court provided to the jury, he could not claim error on appeal. And finally, the Supreme Court held sufficient evidence supported Brazzle's possession of oxycodone conviction. 

    Appeal No. 119,228: In the Matter of the Equalization Appeals of Target Corporation et al.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court revived Johnson County's appeal from a Kansas Board of Tax Appeals proceeding adjusting taxpayers' property values. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal at the taxpayers' request. The taxpayers argued there was no jurisdiction to review the proceedings, since the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals had not issued a final decision—generally a requirement for taxing authorities to obtain judicial review of board actions. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court concluded there was jurisdiction to consider the county's argument the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals wrongly refused to issue a final decision. The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals.

    Appeal No. 119,315: State of Kansas v. Brent J. Carter

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    A Sedgwick County jury convicted Carter of two counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm, one count of aggravated battery, and one count of criminal threat. The battery and threat charges arose from an incident in which Carter hit and threatened to kill Tatyana Crowe. The murder and firearm charges arose from a later shooting at a house in Wichita, resulting in the deaths of Betty Ann Holloman and Brenton Oliver. In an opinion written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court held any error in the district court's refusal to instruct the jury that presence alone does not make the defendant an aider or abettor was harmless because there was ample evidence of Carter's direct involvement in the crimes. The Supreme Court also held the district court made no error when it found the battery precipitated the shooting and then consolidated the charges into one case.

    Appeal No. 121,051: In the Matter of the Adoption of Baby Girl G

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    This is an appeal from a termination of paternal rights pursuant to an adoption proceeding under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 59-2136(h). Sedgwick County District Court granted the proposed adoptive parents' petitions seeking termination of the biological father's rights, finding the father failed to provide the mother with adequate support during her pregnancy. On the father's appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the termination order but remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of the attorney fees award. The Supreme Court granted the father's petition for review of that portion of the Court of Appeals opinion relating to the termination order. The father sought review of the factual findings made by the district court. In addition, for the first time in the litigation of the case, the father raised arguments asserting the Kansas termination statute is unconstitutional because it denies biological fathers equal protection of the law and infringes on constitutionally protected liberty and due process interests. Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen issued an opinion holding the father failed to preserve the constitutional arguments and the arguments did not fall within recognized exceptions to the preservation requirement. The Supreme Court therefore declined to address the constitutional issues on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals holding on the inadequacy of the father's support. The case was remanded to the district court to carry out the judgment of the Court of Appeals relating to attorney fees. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Caleb Stegall argued the constitutional issue fell within the exceptions to the preservation requirement and the court should have ruled on the merits of the father's various arguments. He contended the evolving direction of constitutional law tends to support broader inherent rights of biological fathers than courts and legislatures have traditionally recognized.


  • 06 Jul 2020 12:56 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 118,091: State of Kansas v. Grady Allen Kornelson

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Kornelson's Reno County convictions for driving under the influence and illegal transportation of liquor. Kornelson's first trial on the charges ended when the trial court determined the jury was unable to reach a verdict. A second jury convicted him. Kornelson argued the second trial violated his constitutional right against double jeopardy. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court concluded the second trial was permitted because there was a manifest necessity to end the first trial based on the jury's inability to agree.

    Appeal No. 118,698: Jeffrey Alan Hammond v. San Lo Leyte VFW Post #7515

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to Cloud County District Court with directions, finding summary judgment was not warranted. The dispute in this personal injury case arises from a fight between Hammond and a patron of the VFW bar. The VFW argued it owed Hammond no duty at the time he sustained his injuries, as the physical harm took place outside the VFW. The Supreme Court held that under these circumstances, the VFW may be liable if the duty arose and the breach occurred on VFW property, even if the actual resulting physical harm took place entirely outside.

    Appeal No. 119,993: State of Kansas v. Andrew Lynn Gibson

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Gibson's convictions of child abuse and felony murder with the underlying felony of child abuse. His crimes involved the asphyxiation of a baby girl in 2016. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court rejected Gibson's claims Riley County District Court erred when it found he waived a privileged communication with a defense-hired psychologist, there was insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions, and the jury instruction on the State's burden of proof improperly discouraged the jury from exercising its nullification power. But the Supreme Court vacated a lifetime postrelease supervision requirement imposed by the trial court, since that could not be imposed in conjunction with Gibson's life prison sentence.

    Appeal No. 120,683: State of Kansas v. Virgil S. Bradford

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Dickinson County District Court's denial of Bradford's motion to correct an illegal sentence. In 1999, a Dickinson County jury convicted Bradford of capital murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and two counts of felony theft. Many years after his sentences for these crimes became final, Bradford argued his aggravated robbery sentence was illegal. Bradford based his argument on a 2018 change in the law. The Supreme Court rejected Bradford's argument. The court held if a criminal defendant moves to correct an illegal sentence, courts judge the sentence's legality as of the time the sentencing judge pronounced the sentence. Later changes in the law do not render a legal sentence illegal. The court also held Bradford could not raise constitutional challenges to his sentence through a motion to correct an illegal sentence.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 06 Jul 2020 12:42 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court reappointed four attorneys to four-year terms on the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys.

    Their terms began July 1 and end June 30, 2024.

    Reappointed were:

    • John Gatz, Colby;

    • Stacy Ortega, Wichita;

    • James Rankin, Topeka; and

    • Lee Smithyman, Overland Park.

    The Office of the Disciplinary Administrator works under the direction of the Supreme Court. The disciplinary administrator reviews and investigates complaints of misconduct filed against attorneys, presents cases to the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, recommends discipline to the Supreme Court in serious matters, and provides education and resources for Kansas attorneys to prevent the occurrence of misconduct.

    Gatz chairs the board, and Derrick Roberson, Manhattan, is vice chair. They serve on the review committee, along with at-large member Leslie Miller, Lawrence. They review all cases docketed for investigation and issue a report on the disposition of the case, which may be dismissal (with or without a letter of caution), diversion, informal admonition, or institution of formal charges. 

    Members of the board—made up of attorneys from across the state—meet in three-person panels, which include two board members and one at-large attorney, to conduct hearings in cases where the review committee has found probable cause that an attorney has violated the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and that published discipline is warranted. Other members of the board are:

    • Gregory Bauer, Great Bend;

    • Stephen Cavanaugh, Topeka;

    • Jeffrey Chubb, Independence;

    • Lucky DeFries, Topeka;

    • Shaye Downing, Lawrence;

    • John Duma, Olathe;

    • Glenn Kerbs, Dodge City;

    • John Larson, Shawnee;

    • Terry Mann, Wichita;

    • Kathryn Marsh, Leawood;

    • Mira Mdivani, Overland Park;

    • Kala Spigarelli, Pittsburg;

    • Gaye Tibbets, Wichita; and

    • Darcy Williamson, Topeka.


  • 06 Jul 2020 12:41 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court today issued an administrative order requiring district and appellate courts to comply with the governor's order requiring people to wear face coverings in public areas to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-090, effective July 3, requires district and appellate courts to comply with Gov. Laura Kelly's Executive Order No. 20-52 requiring the use of face coverings in public, even though the governor's order exempts court proceedings.

    The Supreme Court order requires all court employees, judicial officers, and members of the public to wear a face covering in any courtroom, court office, or other facility used for a court proceeding. Face coverings must also be worn in any nonpublic court office unless physical shields are in place.

    Courts are required to comply even if local county commissions opt out of the governor's executive order.

    "We must protect the health and safety of court users, staff, and judicial officers during this pandemic," Chief Justice Marla Luckert said. "The use of face coverings, hygiene practices, protective shielding, and social distancing will allow us to do that as we conduct court proceedings across the state."

    The Supreme Court order allows a judge to waive the face covering requirement under certain circumstances set out in the order.


  • 29 Jun 2020 10:50 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,973: Brian Russell and Brent Flanders, trustee of the Brent Eugene Flanders and Lisa Ann Flanders Revocable Family Trust v. Treanor Investments LLC and 8th & New Hampshire LLC

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court today affirmed the Douglas County District Court's decision in favor of two developers in a dispute with condominium owners who objected to the developers' planned grocery store in downtown Lawrence. The grocery store would occupy the same development as the condominiums. All parties agreed the project would require a change to land use restrictions imposed on the development in the late 1990s. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that under the terms of the restrictions, the developers were free to change them without the condominium owners' consent.

    Appeal No. 118,790: In the Matter of J.P.

    Archived oral argument video

    When John P. was a juvenile, he committed offenses and received both a juvenile sentence and an adult sentence in what is called an extended-jurisdiction juvenile proceeding. After Wyandotte County District Court found John violated conditions of his juvenile sentence, the court imposed his 237-month adult sentence. John appealed, but the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. In an opinion written by Judge Steve Leben, sitting with the court by designation, the Supreme Court held appellate courts have jurisdiction under K.S.A. 38-2347(e)(4), giving juveniles like John who are subject to extended-jurisdiction proceedings all the rights of a defendant under the Kansas Code of Criminal Procedure. Because that code would provide an adult defendant the right to appeal a final judgment imposing a prison sentence, John had the right to appeal the order imposing his adult sentence.

    Appeal No. 120,190: State of Kansas v. Michael Eugene George Jr.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    On a direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed George's five criminal convictions. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held George's convictions for attempted distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, attempted aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault are not multiplicitous with one another. Further, the Supreme Court held George failed to properly preserve an evidentiary claim on appeal and could not reframe the issue as one of prosecutorial error. Additionally, the Supreme Court held even if the district court erred when it excluded a witness's testimony, his account was presented in its entirety through other testimony and therefore was harmless. Finding a single harmless error, the Supreme Court found George's claim of cumulative error meritless.


    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today

  • 29 Jun 2020 10:48 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions June 26, 2020

    Appeal No. 116,151: State of Kansas v. Charles D. Satchell

    Archived oral argument video

    Satchell appealed his convictions for several sex offenses involving two children. He argued Sedgwick County District Court should not have admitted evidence at trial that he had sexually abused three other children under similar circumstances. In an opinion written by Judge Steve Leben, sitting with the court by designation, the Supreme Court held the district court properly admitted the evidence under K.S.A. 60-455(d), which allows the State to present evidence of similar prior sexual offenses to show a person's propensity to engage in that conduct. Although such evidence may be excluded if the potential for undue prejudice substantially outweighs its probative value, that was not the case here. Because the district court did not err in admitting the evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed Satchell's convictions. The district court did err, however, in imposing two different forms of supervision once Satchell finishes serving his consecutive prison sentences. The Supreme Court vacated the lifetime postrelease supervision portion of Satchell's sentence but otherwise affirmed his convictions and sentences.

    Appeal No. 117,518: Shelby Montgomery and Scott E. Bennett v. Patrick R. Saleh and State of Kansas

    Archived oral argument video

    Montgomery and Bennett were injured when a car driven by Robert Horton ran a red light and collided with Bennett's truck. Horton was being pursued by Saleh, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. Montgomery and Bennett sued Saleh, claiming he was negligent for failing to end his pursuit of Horton earlier than he did. They also sued the State of Kansas under a theory of vicarious liability. The district court granted summary judgment for Saleh and the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for trial, holding the plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with their negligence action against Saleh. The Supreme Court granted the defendants' petition for review. In a per curiam decision, a majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and reversed the district court, allowing the case to proceed to trial against Saleh. The majority held Saleh owed Montgomery and Bennett a statutory duty to drive with due regard to their safety. The majority of the Supreme Court next held the plaintiffs presented enough evidence that Saleh breached his duty of care that a jury could reasonably find in their favor. The question of breach of duty therefore became a fact question to be decided by a jury. The majority of the Supreme Court then considered whether the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case for proximate cause—both causation in fact and causation in law. The majority concluded the evidence the plaintiffs proferred was sufficient to have that question decided by a jury. Finally, the majority of the Supreme Court held Saleh was not protected by statutory immunity provisions. The plaintiffs did not seek review of the portion of the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the State of Kansas, and that ruling was accordingly affirmed.

    Justice Eric Rosen wrote a dissent, which was joined by Justice Caleb Stegall and by Judge Henry Green, who was sitting in place of retired Justice Lee Johnson. The dissent argued the facts as proferred by the plaintiffs failed to show Saleh's conduct breached a duty of care and no evidence showed Saleh demonstrated a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of the danger presented by the situation. The dissent also contended the plaintiffs' evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Saleh's conduct was the cause of the accident. The dissent maintained the evidence was speculative and would require a jury to make ungrounded assumptions about Horton's behavior as he fled Saleh's pursuit.


  • 26 Jun 2020 8:33 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court seeks comment on proposed rule creating access to justice liaisons

    The Kansas Supreme Court is accepting public comment on a proposed rule that directs chief judges of the Court of Appeals and the state’s 31 judicial districts to each designate two liaisons to work with the court’s Access to Justice Committee to advance its efforts to remove barriers and promote equal access to justice throughout the state.

    The court will accept public comment on the proposed rule until 5 p.m. Monday, July 27. Comment may be made to publiccomments@kscourts.org with “Rule 1403” in the subject line.

    Proposed Supreme Court Rule 1403: Access to Justice Liaisons seeks to assure access to justice is promoted uniformly at all levels of the judicial branch. It requires the Court of Appeals and each judicial district to appoint two people—one judge and one court employee—to serve as local liaisons to the Access to Justice Committee.

    “By designating access to justice liaisons in each judicial district and the Court of Appeals, we hope to provide a conduit for sharing information, seeking feedback, and providing a network for discussing access to justice issues all courts face,” said District Judge Erica Schoenig, chair of the Access to Justice Committee. “Any effort to remove barriers to access to justice must include all courts to be successful, and this moves us in that direction.”

    Schoenig serves in the 10th Judicial District, which is Johnson County.

    The idea for access to justice liaisons came from the committee's review of a recent study conducted by the National Center for State Courts funded by a State Justice Institute grant. The report from the study, Kansas Judicial Branch Assessment of Self-Represented Litigant Services, emphasized the need for collaboration within the courts to further the adoption of high-quality self-help services.

    The report also noted the shifting user base in courts, where there are fewer parties in civil cases who are represented by lawyers. Judges and staff can recommend resources for these self-represented litigants, but they are prohibited from giving legal advice. The liaisons will help all courts and the Access to Justice Committee better understand these needs and how to address them.

    The 18-member Access to Justice Committee is made up of attorneys, judges, and laypeople. It was created by Kansas Supreme Court Rule 1401 for the purpose of making recommendations to the court about reducing barriers to equal access to justice, improving legal services delivery, and increasing resources available for legal services to low-income litigants in civil cases.


  • 26 Jun 2020 8:24 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court appoints three, reappoints one to Language Access Committee

    The Kansas Supreme Court appointed three people to the Language Access Committee and reappointed a current member.

    The committee makes recommendations to the Supreme Court to ensure that people with limited English skills can access services of Kansas district courts.

    Appointed to the committee:

    • District Magistrate Judge Erich Campbell, who serves in Pottawatomie County in the 2nd Judicial District;

    • Tabitha Owen, county attorney for Smith County; and

    • Ellen House, court administrator for the 18th Judicial District, which is Sedgwick County.

    Reappointed to the committee:

    • Thomas Fields, a lawyer from Kansas City, Kansas.

    Their terms begin July 1 and end June 30, 2023.

    The court also appointed District Judge Teresa Watson as chair. She serves in the 3rd Judicial District, which is Shawnee County.

    The committee is made up of judges, court administrators, lawyers, and interpreters.

    Also serving on the committee are:

    • Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of the Kansas Court of Appeals;

    • Chief Judge Bradley Ambrosier of the 26th Judicial District, composed of Grant, Haskell, Morton, Seward, Stanton, and Stevens counties;

    • Chief Judge Laura Lewis of the 16th Judicial District, composed of Clark, Comanche, Ford, Gray, Kiowa, and Meade counties;

    • Kurtis Jacobs, court administrator for the 25th Judicial District, composed of Finney, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearny, Scott, and Wichita counties;

    • Oscar Marino, a court interpreter from Lawrence; and

    • Maura Miller, a court interpreter from Overland Park.


  • 19 Jun 2020 12:11 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court amends Kansas eCourt Rules

     

    TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court has amended Rules 20 through 24, known collectively as the Kansas eCourt Rules.

     

    The amendments took effect June 12 and apply in district courts using the new centralized case management system and will apply in other courts as they begin using the system.

     

    The courts now using the centralized case management system include:

    • 8th Judicial District—Dickinson, Geary, Marion, and Morris counties.
    • 21st Judicial District—Clay and Riley counties.

    The amendments are included in Administrative Order 2020-RL-064.

    Changes under Rule 21: Definitions

    The term "filing user" has been amended to make clear this does not include any judicial branch employees, judges, temporary judges assigned to a case, retired judges or justices assigned to a case, or current Court of Appeals judges or Supreme Court justices acting in their official capacities.

    The added term "transcript" means any written verbatim record of a court proceeding or deposition.

     

    Change under Rule 22(d): Inaccessible Documents

     

    Using the public portal to the new centralized case management system, the public has access to many more documents than compared to the FullCourt system it is replacing.

    But criminal complaints and warrants are treated differently under the centralized case management system. An arrest warrant, search warrant, or bench warrant that has not been executed is not accessible to the public using the centralized case management system's public access portal.

    Comments related to this rule clarify that:

    • A criminal complaint is not sealed, even if a proposed arrest warrant is filed at the same time or an arrest warrant is pending. The criminal complaint is available to the public unless a court order previously sealed it.
    • An arrest warrant, search warrant, or bench warrant is available to the public once the return confirming the warrant was served is filed, unless a court order previously sealed it.

    Change to Rule 23(a): Filing User's Obligations

    The requirement to certify compliance with Rule 24(b) does not apply to those exempted from the amended definition of "filing user" in Rule 21(l).

    Change to Rule 23(b): Filing Under Seal

    A case or document may be sealed only if a specific court order or a statute or Supreme Court rule requires it.

    Comments related to Rule 23(c): District Court Clerk Processing of an eFiled Document

    The person filing a document is solely responsible for filing it correctly.

    Comments clarify that Rule 23(c)(1) applies to a document filed in an existing case when the district court clerks must match the county designation, the names of the parties in the case caption, and the case number.

    Change under Rule 24(b): Personally Identifiable Information

    The name of a minor who is not a named party in a case must be excluded from a pleading filed with the court unless an exception in Rule 24(c) is met. Similarly, a filing must exclude the name of a person whose identity could reveal the name of a minor who is not a named party in a case.

    Change under Rule 24(c): Exceptions

    An exception to personally identifiable information includes any information in a transcript.

    Comments were added to Rule 24 to clarify:

    • Information a filer reasonably believes is necessary or material under the exception in (c)(4) means the information is needed for the document to make sense or for its proper processing, or is information requested on a Kansas Judicial Council form.

    • If the use of initials to protect personally identifiable information is unwieldly, the first name and first initial of the last name may be used, in addition to the use of a generic identifier or a pseudonym.

    • If an exception in Rule 24(c) applies, then the information is no longer considered personally identifiable information. For example, "the physical address of an individual's residence" is considered personally identifiable information under Rule 24(b)(1); but if a law requires the physical address of an individual's residence be provided, then the address may be stated and is no longer treated as personally identifiable information.



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