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  • 15 Jun 2020 10:21 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Justice Carol Beier announces September retirement from Supreme Court 

     

    TOPEKA – Justice Carol A. Beier announced today that she will retire from the Supreme Court effective September 18.

    Beier has served on the Supreme Court since September 2003. She earlier served on the Kansas Court of Appeals for more than three years.

    "I will be ever grateful for the opportunities I have been given to spend so much of my legal career in service to my home state and its citizens," Beier said. "Twenty years and thousands of cases since my children helped me put on my robe for the first time, I will pack it away with pride. This is possible because I can bear personal witness to the good faith and daily striving of our Kansas courts to be and remain fair and impartial guardians of the rule of law and the rights of all."

    Beier was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and to the Court of Appeals by former Governor Bill Graves. Before taking the bench, she was a partner at Foulston & Siefkin law firm in Wichita and taught at the University of Kansas School of Law. She spent her first few years after law school in a private white collar criminal defense practice in Washington, D.C.; as a staff attorney at the National Women's Law Center; and as a clerk for former federal Court of Appeals Judge James K. Logan.

    The voters of Kansas retained Justice Beier four times – in 2002, 2004, 2010, and 2016.

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert, who has served on the Supreme Court with Beier since 2003, said Beier leaves an outstanding legacy as an appellate jurist with a steadfast dedication to the rule of law who wrote her opinions with the reader in mind.

    “Her writing is always clear and easily understood, eloquent, usually accented by a memorable and clever phrase, and reflects principled reasoning,” Luckert said. “Attorneys will recall her piercing questions, quick wit, sharp intellect, and fairness and impartiality. Court employees will speak highly of her leadership, commitment to transparency, and concern for them. Most memorable is her dedication to the rule of law. She set aside her personal opinions to embrace the rule of law knowing some of her decisions would be unpopular. She will be greatly missed, and we wish her and her family well.”

    Merit-based selection process

    Supreme Court vacancies are filled using a merit-based nomination process that Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.

    When there is a vacancy on the bench, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews applications and conducts public interviews of nominees. The commission narrows the nominee pool to three names that it sends to the governor. The governor chooses one nominee to appoint.

    Eligibility requirements

    To be eligible, a nominee must be: 

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

    Supreme Court Nominating Commission

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

    Selection criteria

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

    • legal and judicial experience
    • educational background
    • character and ethics
    • temperament
    • service to the community
    • impartiality
    • respect of colleagues

    Judicial conduct

    Justices must follow the law and not be influenced by politics, special interest groups, public opinion, or their own personal beliefs. Justices demonstrate their accountability by following a Code of Judicial Conduct that establishes standards of ethical behavior. They also take an oath of office that includes swearing to support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and Kansas Constitution.

    Retention elections

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

    ____

    Justice Beier’s June 12, 2020, letter to Gov. Laura Kelly and Chief Justice Marla Luckert


  • 10 Jun 2020 2:16 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions June 5, 2020

    Appeal No. 114,796: State of Kansas v. Jason W. Hachmeister

    Archived oral argument video

    Hachmeister was convicted in Shawnee County District Court of premeditated murder for killing his mother, Sheila Hachmeister. On direct appeal to the Supreme Court, Hachmeister challenged his conviction claiming improperly admitted evidence under K.S.A. 60-455 and eight prosecutorial errors deprived him of a fair trial. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court affirmed Hachmeister's conviction, finding the trial court properly admitted evidence under K.S.A. 60-455 and the single prosecutorial error was harmless.

    Appeal No. 115,817: State of Kansas v. Aaron Robert Brown

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeals panel and affirmed Cowley County District Court's action to discard the "in" prefix from "voluntary manslaughter" on Brown's jury verdict form. The Supreme Court granted the State's petition for review to resolve a panel split between State v. Brown, No. 115,817, 2017 WL 5016171 (Kan. App. 2017) (unpublished opinion) and State v. Rice, No. 103,223, 2011 WL 4031494 (Kan. App. 2011) (unpublished opinion), concerning a district court's ability to resolve inconsistencies between verdict forms and other case evidence, including charging documents and jury instructions. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court sided with the Rice panel's approach and held a strong presumption exists in favor of the literal text of a verdict form and a district court judge may only invoke the surplusage rule to discard inconsistent parts of a verdict form when the record as a whole necessarily creates doubt as to its meaning. A district court may consider anything from the record that tends to show with certainty what the jury intended, and the district court judge must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the record as a whole clearly demonstrates the intent of the jury when discarding contrary surplusage. Applying Brown's facts, the Supreme Court held the record created doubt as to the meaning of the jury's verdict but noted aspects of the trial record demonstrated the jury's intent with certainty. With this evidence, the Supreme Court held the jury intended to convict Brown of attempted voluntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Supreme Court held the district court did not err when it discarded the "in" prefix from the verdict form as mere surplusage and reversed the Court of Appeals panel.

    Appeal No. 120,050: In the Matter of the Jill Petrie St. Clair Trust Reformation

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court today affirmed Sedgwick County District Court's order reforming a trust. In a unanimous opinion written by Senior Judge Patrick McAnany, the court held the addition of two new trust terms was necessary to conform the trust to the creator's intent. The trust was formed in 2003 to shield the assets from federal estate taxes. The newly approved terms were mistakenly omitted from the original trust document.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 10 Jun 2020 9:43 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    NOTICE TO ALL ATTORNEYS PRACTICING IN THE THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT

    June 10, 2020

    JURY TRIALS

                    Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-PR-054, filed May 27, 2020, permits jury trials to proceed if a jury trial is required to preserve a person’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and the court has developed a detailed plan for jury operations.  The Supreme Court has appointed an Ad Hoc Jury Task Force to examine safe use of juries during pandemics.  Judge Steven Ebberts from the 3rd Judicial District is a member of the Task Force and he also chairs our local committee on Jury Trials.  The Supreme Court Task Force report is not due until mid-July.  Given the Supreme Court requirements in Administrative Order 2020-PR-054 and the necessary lead time for sending summons, it is unlikely that jury trials will resume until August 31st or after.   


  • 02 Jun 2020 1:59 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice delivers annual State of the Judiciary report to governor, legislators

     

    TOPEKA—Chief Justice Marla Luckert today delivered a written State of the Judiciary report to the governor and the chairs of the House and Senates judiciary committees, as well as to all members of the Kansas Legislature.

    In other years, the written report is delivered simultaneous to the chief justice’s formal address to a joint session of the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. That address, which had been scheduled in January, was cancelled due to a conflict of interest, and efforts to reschedule it later were stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Luckert, who became chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court in December 2019, said she was disappointed she could not deliver the report in person through the formal address, but she is pleased there was so much to cover in her written report.

    “This annual report does more than tally the roughly 400,000 cases processed by Kansas courts. It documents our efforts to modernize court operations to better meet the needs of Kansans,” Luckert said. “It’s an important check-in with the executive and legislative branches of government and the people of Kansas about strides made by the Kansas judicial branch of government to better serve our communities.”

    The report is arranged in broad categories that capture the most important advancements in judicial branch operations to occur in the 18-month period between July 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019, or the 2019 fiscal and calendar years combined. It does not include the rapid change to court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be reported in 2021.

    Self-help centers

    Access to and promoting justice in Kansas courts centers on actions to make it easier for people to resolve their legal concerns without infringing on statutory or constitutional rights. It ranges from self-help resources to problem-solving courts to analyzing pretrial detention practices.

    “People who represent themselves in court unintentionally strain the system because they need support and guidance normally provided by an attorney, and it can slow case processing for everyone,” Luckert said. “Judges and court employees can’t give legal advice, so any support we offer must not interpret the law or give unfair advantage to the party who does not have an attorney.”

    In 2019, there were district-court based self-help centers in five counties: Ellis, Johnson, Miami, Sedgwick, and Wyandotte. Help offered by these centers can range from providing access to computer terminals and simplified forms to volunteer attorneys giving brief legal advice.

    The Supreme Court updated its rule that guides court staff about how to provide service without giving legal advice, and its Access to Justice Committee continues to explore how to provide a consistent level of self-help service to people without attorneys through standardized forms and processes.

    Pro bono legal services

    Related to efforts to expand self-help resources, the Supreme Court made it easier for lawyers to provide free and reduced cost legal services. Through a new rule, the court established the framework for retired, inactive, and single-employer attorneys to provide no- or low-cost legal services. It also relaxed certain reporting requirements for attorneys to eliminate redundant precautionary measures that may have deterred participation.

    Dispute resolution

    The court also approved an overhaul of rules relating to dispute resolution to provide clarity and consistency about the process and to make it more accessible to people involved in legal disputes. Through its Advisory Council on Dispute Resolution, the court streamlined training and continuing education requirements, expanded ethical rules, and described how the council will investigate complaints.

    Problem-solving courts

    Kansas had 19 problem-solving courts in 15 judicial districts in 2019. These specialty courts focus on the reasons for criminal behavior through a team approach involving the judge, court staff, a social worker or mental health professional, prosecutor, and defense attorney. By addressing the reason for the criminal behavior, the person charged can avoid incarceration while getting the help he or she needs.

    Specialty courts are for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, behavioral and mental health problems, or problems common among veterans.

    Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force

    Near the end of 2018, the Supreme Court created a 15-member Pretrial Justice Task Force chaired by Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of the Kansas Court of Appeals. Judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court services and community corrections officers serve on the task force, which is charged with examining current pretrial detention practices for criminal defendants in Kansas district courts.

    The task force plans to issue its final report, including its assessment of practices and procedures used in other jurisdictions, recommendations for training, and proposed pretrial best practices by November 6, 2020.  

    eCourt centralized case management system

    In 2019, the first two judicial districts moved to the new centralized case management system that is the centerpiece of the eCourt plan to transform the way courts serve the people of Kansas.

    The 8th and the 21st judicial districts, which include Clay, Dickinson, Geary, Marion, Morris, and Riley counties, transitioned to the new system in August 2019. The rollout to all state courts, including all judicial districts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, will continue in calendar year 2021.

    “Having courts in all 105 counties operating on the same system and sharing case data will benefit courts, as well as the people who need our services,” Luckert said. “It also supports our initiatives to achieve greater standardization, efficiency, and accountability."

    As courts move to the new system, certain accounting functions, including payment processing, will move to a centralized payment center in the Office of Judicial Administration that was formed in 2019.

    Duties now managed by district courts will be done by the centralized payment center, including:

    • monthly reconciliations;
    • writing and delivering checks;
    • submitting funds to unclaimed property;
    • managing chargebacks, overages, and small refunds; and
    • credit card payment processing and reconciliation. 

    Centralized payment center staff complete these and other functions under the supervision of accountants.

    By shifting the responsibility away from district courts, court clerk staff will be able to focus on case processing.

    Other benefits to come with the change to the new case management system are standardization of processes, workshare between judicial districts, and remote access to court records.

    Workload studies

    In 2019, the judicial branch continued to examine the volume and types of work performed by courts statewide to determine the number of staff needed to do that work. These studies allow the Supreme Court to make budget and staffing decisions based on measurable data.

    The judicial branch partners with the National Center for State Courts to conduct studies that look at the workload for court services officers, workload for court clerks, and a weighted caseload for analysis for judges of district courts, administrative support staff, and court reporters.

    Personnel costs account for about 91% of the judicial branch budget, so the Supreme Court commits to ensuring a workforce structure that addresses needs throughout the state.

    Attracting and retaining an excellent workforce

    The Supreme Court continues to request funding that will allow it to pay employees and judges at market rates. Even with modest pay increases in recent fiscal years, district court judge actual pay ranked 49th out of 50 states in July 2019, and employee pay continues to be below market from 1.7% to 17.9%.

    “The Supreme Court depends on judges and employees to meet its constitutional mandate to provide a unified court system to the people of Kansas,” Luckert said. “A well-qualified, experienced workforce is a crucial component of the court system’s success.”

    Annual report

    The 2020 Annual Report of the Chief Justice of Kansas Supreme Court is available on the judicial branch website at  www.kscourts.org/Newsroom/Publications/State-of-the-Judiciary.


  • 01 Jun 2020 9:15 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decision today:

    Appeal No. 120,075: State of Kansas v. Jason W. Cott

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    Cott pleaded guilty in 2010 to two counts of premeditated murder and received concurrent sentences of 50 years without the possibility of parole. He subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, which Johnson County District Court denied. He appealed directly to the Kansas Supreme Court. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous court, affirmed the conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court held Cott failed to demonstrate manifest injustice resulting from his pleas. The Supreme Court noted it was Cott himself who proposed the plea agreement; the Supreme Court held he was not coerced into accepting the plea agreement either by his trial counsel or by his mother urging him to plead guilty. 

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 01 Jun 2020 9:11 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Kansas Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments by videoconference

     

    TOPEKA—Kansas Court of Appeals judges will hear one appeal by videoconference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2. The oral arguments will be livestreamed on YouTube.

    It is the second time during the pandemic that a Court of Appeals panel will hear oral arguments remotely and livestream them. Another panel heard an appeal in the same manner May 12.

    Ordinarily, Court of Appeals panels hear oral arguments in multiple cases each month. When the Kansas Judicial Center and other courthouses closed to in-person proceedings in mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Court of Appeals canceled its scheduled oral arguments for March and April. Most of the appeals were placed on the summary calendar, meaning they will be decided on their written records without oral argument. Parties who want to argue their cases before a panel of judges can make that request.

    "I am pleased we are able to accommodate parties who want to present their arguments by offering videoconferencing, and that we are able to livestream the proceedings so others can watch," said Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge, who is the presiding judge for the June 2 docket. "Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, our court is still able to timely hear appeals, guaranteeing that people's access to justice is not hindered."

    Joining Standridge on the panel participating in Tuesday's docket are Court of Appeals Judge G. Gordon Atcheson and Senior Judge James Burgess. They and the attorneys will all appear from separate locations by videoconference.

    The case on the June 2 docket is:

    Appeal No. 121,249: Raymond Kamila v. University of Kansas

    The appeal involves a dispute over the extent to which the university can discipline students for off-campus conduct. Kamila was expelled from KU in 2017 after a disciplinary hearing panel found he violated multiple provisions of the student code when he made unwanted advances and sent harassing messages to two female students. Kamila now claims that the university acted outside the scope of its jurisdiction because most of his conduct occurred either off campus or online.

    In a previous case, a separate panel of this court held the student code dealt only with conduct occurring either on campus or at university-sponsored events, and thus it lacked the authority to discipline a student for his off-campus behavior. See Yeasin v. University of Kansas, 51 Kan. App. 2d 939, 360 P.3d 423 (2015). The university has since updated its student code to apply to off-campus conduct that affects the on-campus safety of its members; therefore, this appeal asks whether that updated language is enough to grant the university jurisdiction over Kamila's off-campus and online conduct.


  • 29 May 2020 8:51 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Kansas Supreme Court Docket for June 5, 2020

     

    The Supreme Court's June 5 docket will be by videoconference. Justices and attorneys arguing the case will all appear by video.

    This will be the Supreme Court’s second docket entirely 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.

    9 a.m. • Friday, June 5

    Appeal No. 120,209: State of Kansas v. Sergio Angel Arrizabalaga

    Saline County: (Petition for Review) A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper stopped Arrizabalaga, who was driving a rented van, and later discovered a large amount of marijuana inside. Arrizabalaga was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and no drug tax stamp. Prior to trial, he moved to suppress evidence on the grounds the officer did not have probable cause to stop the van and did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him for 24 minutes before calling for a drug-detecting dog. The district court denied the motion. A month later, Arrizabalaga again moved to suppress the evidence. In this second motion, he argued the length of his detention was too long and his statements were not voluntary. The district court granted the motion by finding the officer did not diligently and reasonably pursue the purpose of the stop. The State filed an interlocutory appeal. A majority of the Court of Appeals panel affirmed the district court’s decision; however, a dissenting judge held the detention was reasonable. Issues on review are whether: 1) the district court erred in granting the motion to suppress; 2) the officer was as diligent as possible in obtaining a drug-detecting dog search; and 3) the officer reasonably pursued the purpose of the stop.


  • 29 May 2020 8:09 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice issues five administrative orders affecting court operations during pandemic

    TOPEKA—Chief Justice Marla Luckert has issued five administrative orders to give updated direction to Kansas courts and court users as courts continue to gradually conduct more in-person proceedings and increase the number and types of service delivered to the people of Kansas.


    “We want people coming into our courthouses and courtrooms to know we are taking appropriate measures to protect their health,” Luckert said.

    One order provides clarity about public health directives courts must follow, and others renew the suspension of certain deadlines and time limitations while courts work toward resuming full operations.

    “By temporarily suspending some deadlines and time limitations, we uphold the legal and constitutional rights afforded all of us while our courts manage case processing consistent with public health guidelines,” Luckert said.

    New administrative orders

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-054 applies to Kansas district and appellate courts. It requires courts to comply with orders of the chief justice and the governor; COVID-19 safety directives from the Office of Judicial Administration; and public health guidance from state and local health officials and OSHA.

    The order requires courts that remain closed to the public to meet certain conditions before allowing walk-in visitors, including seeking guidance from the local public health official about how to return to in-person hearings based on local risk and the courthouse facility. The chief judge must assure compliance with health recommendations, have a plan for screening people entering a courtroom or court office, and provide court contact information should someone be denied entry due to health concerns.

    The order directs that all hearings should be conducted remotely, if possible. It prohibits most in-person proceedings that require more than 10 people in a courtroom, and it requires that all persons in a courtroom be at least 6 feet apart.

    The order allows jury trials to proceed if it's required to preserve a person's constitutional right to a speedy trial and the court has presented its departmental justice a plan that:

    • allows for voir dire, or jury selection, involving jury panels numbering no more than 12 at a time;
    • uses a location that provides for social distancing;
    • designates how and where sidebar conversations will occur;
    • specifies how exhibits will be handled between attorneys, court staff, and jurors;
    • provides a videostream of the proceedings for public viewing, if necessary; and
    • specifies how the jury will be managed to meet social distancing requirements, addresses jurors' ability to hear and see witnesses and exhibits, and identifies where jurors will deliberate, including how they will leave for and return from deliberation.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-055 renews the suspension of certain deadlines and time standards, including applicable statutory speedy trial provisions, for any municipal court closed or continuing trials because of COVID-19. The suspensions remain in effect until the court reopens and can reasonably place the case on its calendar, or until further order. The suspensions do not apply when a person is held in custody.

    The order also continues to authorize courts to conduct hearings by two-way telephone conference or videoconference communication to the extent it is permitted by the United States and Kansas Constitutions.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-056 authorizes courts to conduct hearings by two-way telephone conference or videoconference communication. The authorization applies to criminal, juvenile offender, civil, probate, child in need of care, and other proceedings. It includes all pretrial, trial, and post-trial proceedings, including plea, criminal sentencing, probation revocation, show cause, or any other proceeding. It encourages judges and litigants to use remote proceedings whenever possible and especially when a person involved in the case expresses health concerns.

    The order requires remote proceedings to allow for confidential communication, and that the proceedings be publicly available during the proceeding or by recording afterward.

    The order remains in effect until further order of the chief justice or until it expires under terms specified in House Substitute for Senate Bill 102, which is 150 days following the expiration of a declared state of disaster emergency.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-057 suspends all statutory deadlines and time limitations to bring a defendant to trial. The suspension remains in effect until further order or it expires under provisions in House Substitute for Senate Bill 102.

    Administrative Order 2020-PR-058 suspends statutes of limitations, statutory time standards, or deadlines that apply to conducting or processing judicial proceedings. Under the order, no action may be dismissed for lack of prosecution or failure to meet a deadline, except when a judge, appellate judicial officer, or hearing officer exempts a case from the suspension.

    The order does not affect deadlines or time limitations to bring a criminal defendant to trial, as those are suspended by Administrative Order 2020-PR-057.

    The suspensions under this order remain in effect until further order or they expire under provisions in House Substitute for Senate Bill 102.

    Court operations during pandemic

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


  • 15 May 2020 11:16 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decision today, May 15, 2020

     

    Appeal No. 119,911: State of Kansas v. Willie E. Morris

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    A Sedgwick County jury convicted Morris of premeditated first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery, and conspiracy to commit distribution of a controlled substance. The district court sentenced him to a hard-50 year life sentence plus 280 months to run consecutively. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Kansas Supreme Court, affirmed the convictions. The court held the district court did not err in declining Morris' request for a jury instruction on voluntary intoxication because the evidence showed only that Morris had consumed drugs and alcohol before the crimes, not that he was so intoxicated he lacked the ability to form an intent. The court also held the district court did not err in admitting gruesome photographs of the victim's body. The court found the photographs were relevant and admissible to show the manner and violent nature of the victim's death and corroborate witness testimony. Finally, the court rejected Morris' claim of cumulative error as Morris had failed to demonstrate the existence of any trial errors.


    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 14 May 2020 12:59 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Kansas will offer Uniform Bar Exam July 28-29

    TOPEKA – Today, after considering the National Conference of Bar Examiners May 5, 2020, announcement that it will make a Uniform Bar Examination available for July, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed its April, 17, 2020, plan to administer the examination on July 28 and 29.


    The deadline to inform Kansas bar admissions administrators of whether a qualified applicant intends to sit for the July exam is June 10.

    More information on the setup of the exam's physical location and its administration will be sent to applicants before that deadline.

    As the Supreme Court announced in April, those qualified applicants who do not choose to take the exam in July will be given an opportunity to take it in September, without the necessity of an additional application submission or fee payment.



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