Appeal No. 121,447: Catherine Roll, a disabled person, by and through her co-guardians Teresa Roll Kerwick and Mary Ann Burns v. Laura Howard, Secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, and Mike Dixon, Superintendent of the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center
Appeal No. 121,447 archived oral argument
Roll has had significant mental and physical disabilities since childhood. She has resided at the Parsons State Hospital since 1970. Her parents died in the late 1990s and her sisters became her legal guardians in 2002. In spring 2016, the hospital faced major budget reductions and decided to transfer Roll to either a community care institution or home care. The guardians filed a petition in Sedgwick County District Court seeking to enjoin the hospital from transferring her out of the facility where she had lived for 46 years. The guardians asserted that Roll was protected from the transfer by both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Medicaid provisions of the Social Security Act.
The district court granted an ex parte temporary restraining order preventing the transfer. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled in favor of the defendants and denied Roll’s request for an injunction. The court stayed the transfer, however, pending appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, and the Supreme Court granted Roll’s petition for review. Following briefing and oral argument, but before the Supreme Court issued an opinion, the defendants filed a notice informing the Court that Roll had recently experienced a significant decline in her physical and mental health and the defendants no longer considered transfer to community-based treatment to be a viable option. Considering these changed circumstances, the defendants requested that the Supreme Court dismiss the appeal as moot and vacate both the district court and Court of Appeals judgments. Roll contested dismissal and, contending she had prevailed in the litigation, filed motions for attorney fees and costs totaling over $165,000.
In a per curium decision, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot. The Court determined that, because of Roll’s declining capacity, the defendants were no longer seeking to remove her from the hospital and were voluntarily providing the relief she had been seeking. Because the Court could not provide a decision on the merits that would have any bearing on the rights of the parties, the case had become moot and the Court would not give an advisory opinion. As a correlate to finding the litigation moot, the Court declined to order the defendants to pay Roll’s requested costs and attorney fees. The Court held that, because she had not prevailed at any stage of the litigation, Roll was not the “prevailing party” as required for an award of attorney fees under federal civil rights statutes. The Court cautioned against relying on the Court of Appeals decision for precedential value.
Justice Eric Rosen, joined by Justice Dan Biles, filed a dissenting opinion. The dissent argued the district court and the Court of Appeals erred in finding Roll had no active treatment needs and in denying her petition for relief under the Medicaid Act and related regulations. The dissent then argued the appeal was not moot and Roll had prevailed for attorney-fee purposes because her persistent attempt to protect her rights through litigation allowed her to remain in the hospital. For that reason, the dissent contended, the defendants should not be rewarded for withdrawing at the last minute their resistance to her continued treatment at the hospital, shortly before the Supreme Court would have ruled on the merits of the appeal.
Appeal No. 122,007: City of Wichita v. Arlando Trotter
Appeal No. 122,007 archived oral argument
The Supreme Court affirms in part and reverses in part the Court of Appeals decision reversing the Sedgwick District Court's dismissal of two criminal charges against Trotter under Wichita Municipal Ordinances 3.06.030.A. and 3.30.030.A. After the Wichita Municipal Court convicted Trotter of both offenses, the district court vacated the convictions on appeal and then dismissed the charges, finding that W.M.O. 3.06.030.A was unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of both charges, finding that the ordinance was not overbroad and further concluding, sua sponte, that the district court had erred in dismissing a second charge under a separate statute. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals on both grounds, concluding that the ordinance was unconstitutionally overbroad and that the panel erred by sua sponte raising the propriety of the second dismissal because the city had waived the issue in its briefing. The Supreme Court thus affirmed the district court's dismissal of Trotter's charges. Finally, the Supreme Court also affirmed the Court of Appeals rejection of a Fourth Amendment related claim Trotter raised under the overbreadth analysis.