Kansas Supreme Court Decisions, February 10, 2023

14 Feb 2023 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Case No. 125,500: In the Matter of Mitchell J. Spencer

Case No. 125,500 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court ordered published censure for Spencer's violations of KRPC 8.4(c) and 8.4(g). Spencer was licensed to practice law in Kansas in September 2017. Two years later, Spencer violated K.S.A. 8-1605, a class C misdemeanor. It is a traffic law concerning the duty of a driver upon damaging unattended vehicle or other property. At the time, Spencer was a Sumner County Attorney's Office employee. The city prosecutor dismissed the citation and referred the case to the Kansas Attorney General's Office. Before the AG's Office filed the case, Spencer paid for the vehicular damages his violation of K.S.A. 8-1605 caused. He also entered into a diversion agreement and completed it. The case was dismissed with prejudice. Counsel for Spencer and the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator jointly recommended more than published censure because of Spencer's status as a prosecutor at the time of misconduct. But the court held that prosecutors are only subject to a higher standard while acting in the scope of their official prosecutorial duties. As Spencer's misconduct did not occur within the scope of his official duties, the rules of professional conduct imposed no heightened duty of ethical conduct on him. Clear and convincing evidence established that Spencer's conduct adversely, but not seriously, reflected on his fitness to practice law.

Appeal No. 123,637: State of Kansas v. Dustin William Eugene Bilbrey

Appeal No. 123,637 archived oral argument

Before sentencing, Bilbrey moved to withdraw his no contest pleas to multiple felonies because his defense counsel was incompetent by refusing to provide Bilbrey with all available video discovery and the State coerced Bilbrey into entering a plea agreement by threatening to prosecute his brother on prior drug charges. The Saline County District Court denied Bilbrey's motion, and a Court of Appeals panel affirmed. On review, the  Supreme Court affirmed the panel's decision finding the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Bilbrey's motion to withdraw his pleas. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court held the district court applied the correct legal standard in reviewing Bilbrey's claim of attorney incompetence and substantial competent evidence supports the district court's factual determination underlying its decision that Bilbrey's plea was not coerced.
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