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  • 01 May 2020 11:36 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Kansas Supreme Court Docket for May 4, 2020 (Continued)

     

    May 4 docket

    The May 4, 2020, docket consists entirely of cases on the Supreme Court’s summary calendar. The cases are summarized below.

    When a case does not present a new question of law, and oral argument is deemed neither helpful to the court nor essential to a fair hearing of the appeal, it is placed on the summary calendar. These cases are decided on their written record without oral argument.

     

    The May 4 docket was scheduled in early April after the Supreme Court took a series of actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that included closing the Kansas Judicial Center. It allowed the court to continue to decide cases without in-person contact for oral argument.

    June 5 docket

    The Supreme Court scheduled the June 5 docket by videoconference to allow the court and the attorneys arguing cases to appear by video. Cases will be identified when the docket is posted on the Supreme Court dockets page.

    This will be the second time the Supreme Court will hear cases by videoconference. The first was April 11 when the court heard Kelly v LCC et al on an expedited schedule that included a Saturday morning oral argument.

    The Supreme Court has livestreamed oral arguments online since 2012. The livestream for the June 5 docket will be on the Kansas Supreme Court YouTube channel.

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

    Sedgwick County: (Criminal Appeal) Leuh Moore, Stafford’s wife, was killed in Wichita in April 2018. Law enforcement quickly identified Stafford as a suspect and arrested him two days later in Iowa. While being booked into jail in Iowa, Stafford admitted to killing Moore in Wichita. At trial, Stafford never denied responsibility for the killing but claimed it was a done in the heat of passion without premeditation. A jury found Stafford guilty of premeditated murder and two counts of cruelty to animals. The district court sentenced Stafford to a hard-50 life sentence. Issues on appeal are whether: 1) the district court erred by granting the State’s request to expand on the pattern instruction on the definition of premeditation; 2) the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of heat of passion voluntary manslaughter; 3) the district court erred by admitting hearsay statements made to a sexual assault nurse examiner in violation of Stafford’s right of confrontation; and 4) cumulative error denied Stafford a fair trial.

    Appeal No. 120,600: State of Kansas v. Jerome Edwards

    Shawnee County: (Criminal Appeal) Edwards appeals the denial of his motion for a new trial following post-conviction DNA testing on evidence collected during this 1996 homicide investigation resulting in his conviction for murder and other crimes. The district court concluded the new evidence was favorable to Edwards because it was not unfavorable but that it was not sufficiently material because it was not reasonably probable to lead a jury to reach a different result. Issue on appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion in concluding the new DNA evidence favorable to him was not sufficiently material to lead a jury to reach a different result.

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

    Reno County: (Criminal Appeal) Moore was convicted of first-degree murder after he shot Clarence Allen seven times. Moore, Allen, and Jessica Crowe lived together. Moore confessed to detectives he shot Allen. The district court sentenced Moore to 618 months’ imprisonment with lifetime parole. Issues on appeal are whether: 1) the district court erred by denying Moore’s motion to suppress his confession; 2) the district court erred by denying Moore’s request for a voluntary intoxication jury instruction; 3) the State committed reversible error during closing argument; and 4) cumulative error denied Moore a fair trial.

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

    Sedgwick County: (Petition for Review) The natural mother became pregnant in late 2017. The father learned of the pregnancy through rumor in February 2018. In March, the father and mother began to assume the child was his even though it was possibly another man’s baby. Between March and July, the father and mother exchanged many text messages, and the father purchased items for her and offered to pay an apartment security deposit or have her live with his mother and grandmother. In July, the mother stopped responding the father’s texts. The mother relinquished her rights to Baby G. without telling the father of the birth or her consent. The adoptive parents filed a petition for adoption, and the district court terminated the father’s parental rights, finding he failed to support the mother for the last six months of the pregnancy without reasonable cause, his financial support was incidental, he did not emotionally support the mother, and it was in Baby G’s best interests to terminate parental rights and grant the adoption. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Issues on review are whether: 1) K.S.A. 59-2136(h) is unconstitutional because it allows the termination of a biological father’s parental rights without first finding the father to be an unfit parent; and 2) the district court and Court of Appeals properly terminated the father’s parental rights and granted the adoption based on the evidence presented.

     


  • 01 May 2020 11:22 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Kansas Supreme Court Docket for May 4, 2020

     

    May 4 docket

    The May 4, 2020, docket consists entirely of cases on the Supreme Court’s summary calendar. The cases are summarized below.

    When a case does not present a new question of law, and oral argument is deemed neither helpful to the court nor essential to a fair hearing of the appeal, it is placed on the summary calendar. These cases are decided on their written record without oral argument.

    The May 4 docket was scheduled in early April after the Supreme Court took a series of actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that included closing the Kansas Judicial Center. It allowed the court to continue to decide cases without in-person contact for oral argument.

    June 5 docket

    The Supreme Court scheduled the June 5 docket by videoconference to allow the court and the attorneys arguing cases to appear by video. Cases will be identified when the docket is posted on the Supreme Court dockets page.

    This will be the second time the Supreme Court will hear cases by videoconference. The first was April 11 when the court heard Kelly v LCC et al on an expedited schedule that included a Saturday morning oral argument.

    The Supreme Court has livestreamed oral arguments online since 2012. The livestream for the June 5 docket will be on the Kansas Supreme Court YouTube channel.

    Summary Calendar • No Oral Argument

     Appeal No. 113,762: State of Kansas v. Robert L. Braun

    Ellis County: (Petition for Review) Braun was convicted of driving under the influence. Braun filed a motion to suppress the blood test result, alleging his constitutional rights were violated when officers obtained a blood sample from him without a warrant because Braun’s consent was not voluntary nor free from coercion. The district court denied Braun’s motion. The Court of Appeals held because Braun’s consent was obtained after reading an advisory that incorrectly informed him he could face criminal penalties for refusing to undergo further testing, the results must be suppressed under Ryce and Nece. However, the Court of Appeals held the error was harmless because Braun was charged with an alternative count of being under the influence of alcohol to a degree that rendered him incapable of safely operating a vehicle and there was sufficient evidence to convict him of the alternative charge. Issues on review are whether: 1) the good-faith exception to unlawfully obtained evidence applies to the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ryce and Nece; and 2) the Court of Appeals violated Braun’s constitutional right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a trier of fact when it upheld Braun’s conviction by finding he could have been convicted of an alternative count for which he was not convicted.

    Appeal No. 114,413: City of Kingman v. Ronald S. Ary

    Kingman County: (Petition for Review) Ary appeals his conviction of driving under the influence. Ary claims the arresting officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting him to a warrantless blood test pursuant to the Kansas Implied Consent Law. The Court of Appeals agreed but also agreed with the City of Kingman’s argument the results of Ary’s blood test are admissible in this instance under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Issues on review are whether: 1) the good-faith exception to unlawfully obtained evidence applies to the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ryce and Nece because the officer was not relying on an unconstitutional statute as authority to conduct the search; and 2) the Legislature abandoned its duty to pass constitutional laws by ignoring the constitutional bases for the Kansas Implied Consent Law.

    Appeal No. 115,980: State of Kansas v. Trenton M. Heim

    Reno County: (Petition for Review) Heim was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2015. A sheriff's deputy later read Heim the statutorily required implied consent advisories. Heim refused to take a breath alcohol test but asked to take a blood alcohol test, and a sample was taken as prescribed by statute. With the underlying facts stipulated by the parties, the district court denied Heim’s motion to suppress, which alleged a Fourth Amendment violation based on a warrantless search to which he did not voluntarily consent. The district court convicted Heim of DUI. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court and held the good-faith exception applies to the deputy’s warrantless collection of evidence. Issues on review are whether: 1) the good-faith exception to unlawfully obtained evidence applies to the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ryce and Nece because the officer was not relying on an unconstitutional statute as authority to conduct the search; 2) the Legislature abandoned its duty to pass constitutional laws by ignoring the constitutional bases for the Kansas Implied Consent Law; and 3) the Legislature criminalized an individual’s ability to withdraw consent rendering K.S.A. 8-1025 facially unconstitutional.

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

    Shawnee County: (Petition for Review) Topeka police officers observed a driver commit a traffic infraction. The driver was slow to respond to the traffic stop. Backup officers were called in, including a canine unit. While one officer completed writing the warning citation, the other officers began removing the vehicle occupants for a canine search of the vehicle. When an officer opened Lutz’s door, he observed a marijuana grinder in the door pocket. The canine search was called off, the vehicle was searched, and drugs and drug paraphernalia were located. Lutz moved to suppress the evidence, arguing officers unlawfully extended the duration of the traffic stop to initiate the canine search. The district court denied the motion, finding one officer was still working on completing the warning citation while the other officers began the process for the search. As a result, the duration of the traffic stop was not extended when the marijuana grinder was located. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Issues on review are whether: 1) the police officers deviated from the mission of a traffic stop in order to plan and prepare a drug dog search and unreasonably extended the stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section § 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights; and 2) the Court of Appeals decision was in conflict with State v. Jimenez, 308 Kan. 315 and Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1609.

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

    Reno County: (Petition for Review) Kornelson appeals his convictions for driving under the influence and illegal transportation of liquor. Kornelson argues his retrial following a mistrial violated his double jeopardy rights and the burden of proof instruction used during his second trial was clearly erroneous because it discouraged the jury from exercising its powers of nullification. The Court of Appeals affirmed Kornelson’s convictions, finding when the district court declared a mistrial and the defendant did not object, the manifest necessity standard was not applicable. The Court of Appeals also held the burden of proof jury instruction was not clearly erroneous and the use of the word “should” in the standard instruction for the burden of proof is proper and does not prohibit jury nullification powers. Issues on review are whether the Court of Appeals erred: 1) in failing to apply the manifest necessity standard to Kornelson’s double jeopardy claim; and 2) in finding the district court’s instruction on reasonable doubt did not impermissibly discourage the jury from exercising its power of nullification.

    Appeal No. 118,712: Fairfax Portfolio LLC v. Carojoto LLC, Rosana Privitera Biondo, Anthony Privitera II, and Carl Privitera

    Wyandotte County: (Petition for Review) Through a succession of assignments from the original lender, Carojoto LLC became the holder of a promissory note, mortgage, and other security documents encumbering commercial real estate in Wyandotte County owned by Fairfax Portfolio LLC. Fairfax was in default, so Carojoto entered the property and took possession, excluding Fairfax. Carojoto later filed an action to foreclose on the property and was granted judgment. In a subsequent suit against Carojoto, Rosana Biondo, Anthony Privitera II, and Carl Privitera, Fairfax claimed occupation of the property by Carojoto before seeking authority from the court was wrongful and caused it damages. Fairfax appealed from the district court's order granting Carojoto's motion to dismiss those claims. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding the district court must view Fairfax’s petition in the most favorable light along with facts and reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts. Issues on review are whether: 1) Carojoto had a right of possession; 2) Fairfax’s agreement to allow Carojoto to have possession upon default violated public policy; and 3) the Court of Appeals erred in failing to enforce the limitation of liability provision of the mortgage.

    Appeal No. 119,087: Gary Woessner, deceased, v. Labor Max Staffing and XL Specialty Insurance Co.

    (Workers Compensation) Woessner was injured when he fell off a catwalk at his jobsite. He was taken unconscious to an emergency room. Urine was taken from him by a catheter, and a toxicology screen revealed the presence of marijuana. Woessner appears to never have regained consciousness and died a few months later. Woessner’s widow sued Labor Max Staffing and XL Specialty Insurance Co., seeking death benefits under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. After the suit was filed, the respondents sent the preserved urine sample to LabCorp for additional testing, which also revealed the presence of marijuana. The administrative law judge found the evidence established the presumption Woessner was impaired at the time of the injury and the claimant failed to rebut that presumption. The judge concluded the respondents did not owe any further payments to the claimant. The claimant appealed to the Workers Compensation Appeals Board. The board held the results of LabCorp’s test were not admissible. The respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals. A majority of the Court of Appeals panel held the board abused its discretion by finding the LabCorp evidence was inadmissible. The majority reversed and remanded to the board for further proceedings. The dissent opinion argued the majority erred in its interpretation and application of K.A.R 51-3-5a. Issues on review are whether the Court of Appeals erred: 1) in holding K.A.R. 51-3-5a did not prevent the admission of unfounded medical evidence in a regular hearing; 2) in finding the appeals board abused its discretion in denying admission of the lab-test results; and 3) in holding there was no clear and convincing evidence the claimant rebutted the presumption of impairment.

    Appeal No. 119,228: In the Matter of Tax Equalization of Target Corp., Board of County Commissioners of Johnson County v. Target Inc.

    (Board of Tax Appeals) This taxation case stems from the ad valorem valuations of three Target stores in Johnson County for the 2016 tax year. The taxpayer brought the issue before the Board of Tax Appeals. After a hearing, the Board of Tax Appeals issued a summary decision significantly reducing the valuation of the properties at issue. In February 2018, the taxpayer filed a request for the Board of Tax Appeals to issue a full and complete opinion. In March 2018, the taxpayer withdrew, via email, its prior request for a full and complete opinion. The county objected to the taxpayer’s withdrawal and requested an issuance of a full and complete opinion and, alternatively, reconsideration of the summary decision. The Board of Tax Appeals rejected the county’s objection and denied the motion for reconsideration. The Board of Tax Appeals did not officially grant the taxpayer’s withdrawal of the prior request, but it did not issue a full and complete opinion. The county appealed and the Court of Appeals involuntarily dismissed on the basis it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the Board of Tax Appeals’ order is final only after the issuance of a full and complete opinion. Issue on review is whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining it lacked jurisdiction because a full and complete opinion had not been entered by the Board of Tax Appeals.

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

    Sedgwick County: (Criminal Appeal) After a gang-related shooting resulted in the deaths of Betty Holloman and Brenton Oliver, a jury convicted Carter of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm, one count of aggravated battery, and one count of criminal threat. The trial court sentenced Carter to consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison. Issues on appeal are whether the district court erred: 1) by failing to provide the jury with a requested instruction on aiding and abetting and distinguishing mere presence and association; and 2) by granting the State’s motion to consolidate the aggravated battery and criminal threat complaint with the felony murder charges for purposes of trial.

    Appeal No. 119,745: In the Matter of P.R., a minor child

    Shawnee County: (Petition for Review) T.R., the natural mother of P.R., seeks review of the Court of Appeal’s decision to affirm the district court’s termination of T.R.’s parental rights and placement of P.R. with his foster parents for adoption. T.R. raises multiple issues, most of which deal with her argument the Kansas Department for Children and Families was required to sign her voluntary relinquishment of rights in order for the relinquishment to be effective. Issues on review are whether: 1) the Department for Children and Families was required to sign the natural mother’s voluntary relinquishment of rights under K.S.A. 38-2268(b)(1); 2) the natural mother’s voluntary relinquishment of rights was knowingly made; 3) the natural mother’s due process rights were violated because the Department for Children and Families was required to sign the relinquishment; 4) the district court strictly construed K.S.A. 38-2268; 5) the district court entertained the adopted parents’ motion to rescind the Department for Children and Families’ authority after dismissing the natural mother and her attorney from a hearing; 6) the Department for Children and Families could take away the natural mother’s authority to consent; and 7) the district court proceeded with the adoption under K.S.A. 38-2270 when the mother’s parental rights had not been properly terminated.

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

    Riley County: (Criminal Appeal) Gibson was charged with the first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend’s four-month-old son, SNR. It was the State’s theory Gibson was trying to play video games and became annoyed and angry when SNR would not stop crying, so he shoved the child's face into a couch. The first trial ended in a mistrial. A second jury convicted Gibson of first-degree murder and abuse of a child. The district court sentenced him to a hard-25 life sentence and also imposed lifetime postrelease supervision. Issues on appeal are whether: 1) the State presented sufficient evidence to sustain Gibson’s convictions for felony murder and abuse of a child; 2) the district court committed reversible error in allowing the State to elicit testimony from the expert witness concerning matters discussed with Gibson that were not disclosed in his report; 3) the district court erred when it instructed the jury on the burden of proof by failing to instruct the jury it had the discretion to acquit Gibson; 4) cumulative error denied Gibson a fair trial; and 5) the district court erred in imposing lifetime postrelease supervision rather than lifetime parole.

    Appeal No. 120,046: State of Kansas v. Shelbie Ellis

    Lyon County: (Petition for Review) In January 2018, police were called to conduct a welfare check on Ellis, who had been in the bathroom of a convenience station for 45 minutes. After she opened the door, officers requested her driver’s license and sent the number to the dispatcher. Before returning the license, the officer began questioning her about her travel plans. The officer noticed Ellis’ hands were shaking, but she denied using drugs. Ellis did not consent to any search. The dispatcher returned information Ellis had a potential outstanding warrant in Rice County. The officer arrested Ellis, and she told the officer she had methamphetamine in her purse. When the dispatcher confirmed the warrant, officers found methamphetamine and a pipe in her purse. The district court denied Ellis’ motion to suppress the drug evidence and rejected her argument the search exceeded the scope of the welfare check by retaining her driver's license and checking for warrants after concluding she was not in need of assistance. The district court stated the interaction was not improper, Ellis had voluntarily given her license, and the officer was free to conduct a records check. However, the court applied the attenuation doctrine and held the discovery of the warrant justified the arrest and search. Ellis appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed with Ellis, determining there was a violation of Ellis’ state and federal constitutional rights and found the district court erred in denying the motion to suppress. Issues on appeal are whether: 1) the Court of Appeals erred in overturning the district court’s denial of Ellis’ motion to suppress; 2) conducting a computer check through dispatch equates to a detention if that act does not detain an individual or prolong the encounter; and 3) the attenuation doctrine applies to welfare checks.

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

    Linn County: (Criminal Appeal) McNabb pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of theft and interference with law enforcement. McNabb admitted to killing his uncle and grandmother and then burying their bodies in rural Pittsburg. McNabb moved for a downward departure to a hard-25 life sentence based on his lack of prior felony convictions, his age and immaturity, and the wishes of the victim’s family. The district court denied McNabb’s motion for departure and sentenced him to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 50 years for the murder charges and concurrent terms on the other convictions. Issue on appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion in finding a lack of substantial and compelling reasons to order a downward departure.

    Appeal No. 120,414: State of Kansas v. Cortez Tyrell Timley

    Shawnee County: (Criminal Appeal) Timley was convicted of the drive-by shooting of Jermel Robbins in southeast Topeka. Cell phone tower mapping was used to place the car Timley was riding in at the scene of the crime. A jury convicted Timley of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to a hard-25 life sentence. Issues on appeal are whether: 1) the State committed prosecutorial error by misstating the evidence and arguing for a conviction based on unreliable evidence admitted at trial; 2) the district court erred in allowing a detective to testify as to the cell towers used and then admitting multiple exhibits mapping the cell towers that were accessed by the cell phone linked to Timley; 3) the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser crime of second-degree murder; 4) the district court violated Timley’s due process rights by failing to instruct on any lesser included offenses; and 5) cumulative error denied Timley a fair trial.

     

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

    Jerome Hellmer

    Chief justice reappoints Jerome Hellmer to Kansas Government Ethics Commission

     

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

    Hellmer’s term runs through January 2022.

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

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

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


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

    Amber Smith

    Chief justice appoints Amber Smith to Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

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


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

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

     

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

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

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

    The Kansas Board of Examiners of Court Reporters:

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

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

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

    Other members are:

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


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


    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

     

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

    Archived oral argument video

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

     

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


    Archived oral argument video

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

     

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

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

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

     

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


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

    New attorneys take state oath by videoconference

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

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

    Archived oral argument video

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

     

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


    Archived oral argument video


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

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

    Archived oral argument video

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

     

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

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

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

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

    Archived oral argument video

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

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today

     


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

    Some district courts to resume issuing marriage licenses

    Remote process will serve marriage license applicants statewide.

     

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

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

    New process starts Monday in select locations

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

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

    Courts that will issue marriage licenses

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

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

    Courts will receive applications by encrypted email or mail

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

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

    Fulfilling the oath requirement

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

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

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

    Prior marriage license applications will not be processed

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

    Courts on limited operations due to COVID-19 pandemic

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

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

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



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