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  • 20 May 2022 10:32 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,726: State of Kansas v. Keeshaun W. Milo

    Appeal No. 120,726 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Milo’s convictions for felony murder, holding that a self-defense instruction may only be given in felony murder cases to the extent it may negate an element of the underlying inherently dangerous felony. Because no legal self-defense justification exists for the sale of marijuana, Milo was not entitled to a self-defense instruction.

    The Court also found no error concerning Milo’s remaining arguments. The Court concluded that the Sedgwick County District Court did not err in refusing to give an added requested jury instruction since the instruction was legally inappropriate; the district court did not wrongly deny Milo’s acquittal motion because the State had presented sufficient evidence that Milo attempted to distribute marijuana; and finally, since the Court found no trial errors, Milo’s argument that cumulative error deprived him of a fair trial also failed.

    Appeal No. 120,935: Rita J.Bicknell v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue

    Appeal No. 120,935 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the Crawford County District Court judgment finding Bicknell was a nonresident in 2005 and 2006 for Kansas state income tax purposes. The appeal arose from the Kansas Department of Revenue’s determination that Bicknell should have filed his 2005 and 2006 state income taxes as a Kansas resident. After a new trial, the district court found Bicknell was a Florida resident in those years and he properly filed his state income taxes as a nonresident. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the district court had improperly shifted the burden to prove residency from Bicknell to the Department of Revenue and that Crawford County was not a proper venue.

    In a unanimous opinion written by Justice K.J. Wall, the Supreme Court determined that the district court properly held Bicknell to his burden to prove he had changed his residency from Kansas to Florida. The Court also rejected the Department of Revenue’s argument that taxpayers can only overcome the regulatory presumption that they share a domicile with their spouse by presenting evidence they live apart from their spouse. Instead, the Court held the regulation’s plain language enables taxpayers to overcome the presumption by presenting any “affirmative evidence to the contrary,” and affirmed the district court’s finding that Bicknell overcame the presumption he shared his spouse’s Kansas domicile. The Court also held substantial competent evidence supported the district court’s finding that Bicknell was a Florida resident in 2005 and 2006, and the district court properly applied Kansas law in reaching its judgment.

    The Court held Crawford County was a proper venue under the Kansas Judicial Review Act’s venue statute, which provides the venue for judicial review of an agency order is proper in any county in which the order is entered or is effective. The Court held that when an agency order determines that an individual is a Kansas resident for tax purposes based on the individual’s contacts with a particular county, the order is effective within that county. The Court found Crawford County was a proper venue because the agency order determined Bicknell was a Kansas resident based on his contacts with Crawford County.

    Appeal No. 121,181: State of Kansas v. Mark Holley III

    Appeal No. 121,181 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Holley’s convictions for felony murder and child endangerment. In 2021, the Supreme Court reversed Holley’s felony murder conviction because it concluded the jury should have been instructed on self-defense. Upon a motion for rehearing by the State, the Court now holds that a self-defense instruction is only available in felony murder cases to the extent it may negate an element of the underlying inherently dangerous felony. Because Holley’s alleged self-defense could not legally justify any of the elements of the underlying inherently dangerous felony of aggravated robbery, Holley was not entitled to a self-defense instruction.

    Additionally, the Court found the evidence sufficient to support Holley’s convictions for child endangerment. The Court also vacated Holley’s lifetime postrelease supervision sentence, concluding that a sentencing court lacks authority to order a term of postrelease supervision in conjunction with an off-grid, indeterminate life sentence. Lastly, the Court declined to vacate the district court’s restitution order, as Holley did not preserve that argument for appeal.

    Appeal No. 121,862: State of Kansas v. Orville William Sieg

    Appeal No. 121,862 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Sieg’s convictions for possessing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court held the trial evidence was ample to support his drug paraphernalia conviction; that limiting jury instructions was not applicable, and therefore the Leavenworth District County Court did not err in omitting them; and that the challenged prosecutorial comment was not improper.

    Appeal No. 123,410: State of Kansas v. Tanner Scott Mora

    Appeal No. 123,410 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed Mora’s convictions for felony murder stemming from his presence at a drug deal turned robbery gone wrong. Justice Caleb Stegall, writing for the Court, held that neither of the alternative counts of felony murder were supported by sufficient evidence.

    The first conviction was based on the underlying felony of attempted aggravated robbery under an aiding and abetting theory of liability. Mora argued, and the Court agreed, that a clearly erroneous instructional error, coupled with insufficient evidence of a specific intent to aid and abet the principal in committing the attempted robbery, required reversal of this conviction.

    Mora’s second felony murder conviction, charged in the alternative, was premised on the attempted underlying felony of distribution of marijuana. The Court also reversed this conviction, holding that a person who purchases or obtains a controlled substance for personal use cannot be convicted of distribution (or attempted distribution) of a controlled substance if there is no evidence that the person attempted or intended to later distribute that substance.

    Case No. 124,083: In the Matter of Jacqueline J. Spradling

    Case No. 124,083 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court disbarred Spradling from the practice of law. The court found the evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing demonstrated the respondent violated several rules of professional conduct by engaging in a serious pattern of grossly unethical misconduct, including ignoring the order of a district court, repeatedly making arguments that lacked evidentiary support, intentionally lying to the Supreme Court in her briefs and in oral arguments, and making false statements during the disciplinary investigation.

    Case No. 124,587: In the Matter of Michael P. Jahn

    Case No. 124,587 archived oral argument

    Jahn was suspended from the practice of law in Kansas for a period of six months for violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct regarding scope of representation, conflict of interest, truthfulness, communication with person represented by counsel, misconduct, and jurisdiction. Jahn’s suspension will be stayed after the first three months, provided he enters a probation plan approved by the Disciplinary Administrator’s office.

  • 18 May 2022 10:39 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Case No. 125,083: Petition of Derek Schmidt, Attorney General, to Determine Validity of Substitute for Senate Bill 563 Provisions Reapportioning State Legislative Districts

    125,083 Supreme Court opinion 

    125,083 oral argument video

    Documents filed in this case are at www.kscourts.org/125083/Reapportionment

    Case No. 125,092: Faith Rivera, et al, Tom Alonzo, et al, and Susan Frick, et al, v. Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State; Michael Abbott, Wyandotte County Election Commissioner; and Jamie Shew, Douglas County Clerk 

    125,092 Supreme Court opinion

    125,092 oral argument video
    Documents filed in this case are online at www.kscourts.org/125092/Congressional-districts.

  • 13 May 2022 10:43 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,903: EagleMed, LLC v. Travelers Insurance

    Appeal No 117,903 oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed a Kansas Workers Compensation Appeals Board order requiring Travelers Insurance to pay in full for billings by air ambulance carrier EagleMed, LLC. EagleMed provided air ambulance services to injured workers whose employers carried workers compensation insurance through Travelers. The billing dispute revolves around a medical fee schedule enforced by the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation, which permits an air ambulance carrier to be reimbursed for its “usual and customary charges” according to the federal Airline Deregulation Act. That Act prevents states from enforcing laws relating to air carrier pricing. The Appeals Board determined the prohibition required it to order EagleMed’s bills paid in full without examining the billings.

    In an opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court held the Appeals Board should have determined whether the charges were “usual and customary” before ordering payment. Justice Caleb Stegall dissented, joined by Senior Judge Patrick McAnany. Justice Stegall argued the “usual and customary” requirement could only be construed to conflict with the federal Act, and therefore could not be enforced.

  • 06 May 2022 10:44 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 122,294: In the Matter of L.L., a minor child, by and through next friends C.W. and T.W., Grandparents, and D.L. and A.W., natural parents

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals after Grandparents pursued a “co-parenting agreement” regarding L.L., which they sought to have adopted and enforced. While Grandparents had standing to bring the original action to determine most of their initial claims on behalf of L.L. and themselves under the Kansas Parentage Act, they lost that standing when the appeal narrowed to their personal claim. This appeal is dismissed.

    Appeal No. 122,525: State of Kansas v. Keno M. Claiborne

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    In 1994, Claiborne was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, subject to the possibility of parole after 15 years, for first-degree murder and other crimes. In 2018, he moved to correct his sentence, claiming the sentence was illegal. After the Shawnee County District Court denied his motion, he appealed, contending the sentence was ambiguous as to the time and manner it was to be served. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Eric Rosen affirmed the district court. The Supreme Court held the phrase “life parole” means defendants are subject to parole for the remainder of their lives if they are released after serving their minimum prison terms for off-grid crimes.

    Case No. 124,619: In the Matter of Jacob Johnson

    Case No. 124,619 oral argument

    In an attorney disciplinary proceeding, the Supreme Court publicly censured Johnson following his conviction for misdemeanor assault in Colorado. Johnson self-reported the conviction to the Kansas disciplinary administrator, as required by the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, which arose out of a domestic violence incident with his spouse. In recommending public censure, the disciplinary administrator and the disciplinary hearing panel cited Johnson’s participation in therapy and substance abuse treatment, his lack of prior disciplinary actions, and his cooperation with the investigation process, as mitigating factors regarding the appropriate discipline.

  • 29 Apr 2022 10:59 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,339: State of Kansas v. Geldy Gutierrez-Fuentes

    Appeal No. 120,339 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court reverses in part and affirms in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals after Gutierrez-Fuentes appealed on theories that his constitutional speedy trial right had been violated, that there was insufficient evidence for his aggravated burglary conviction, and that the Wilson County District Court erred by allowing inadmissible hearsay evidence when witnesses testified about conversations they had through an interpreter. The Court of Appeals panel affirmed the district court, finding no error. The Supreme Court found it was harmless error to allow the contested statements under an erroneous hearsay ruling. Given that the error was harmless, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.

    Appeal No. 122,645: State of Kansas v. Alifonso Eduardo Garcia

    Appeal No. 122,645 archived oral argument

    A Rooks County jury found Garcia guilty of premeditated murder for killing his wife after officers found her dead in her home and Garcia lying next to her with a wound on his neck. The jury rejected Garcia’s testimony that an intruder killed his wife and left him for dead. The court sentenced Garcia to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Garcia challenged his convictions, arguing the Rooks County District Court erred when it denied him a venue change; admitted autopsy photographs; and declined to instruct the jury it could convict Garcia of voluntary manslaughter if it did not find him guilty of premeditated murder. Garcia also argued his constitutional rights were violated when he did not get a requested venue study. In an opinion written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Supreme Court affirmed Garcia’s convictions. It ruled the court made no error in denying the venue change because Garcia had failed to show presumed or actual prejudice among the jury members. It reasoned there was no error in admitting the autopsy photographs because they were relevant and were not unduly prejudicial. The Court rejected Garcia’s claim of instructional error because the facts did not support giving a voluntary manslaughter instruction. Finally, the Court declined to consider Garcia’s claim that denial of a venue study had violated his constitutional rights because Garcia had failed to bring up the issue in district court.

  • 22 Apr 2022 11:07 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 121,094: State of Kansas v. Ivan Rozell

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    This case involves a Missouri resident accused of filing a fraudulent insurance claim against a Kansas insurance policy after a car accident in Kansas City, Missouri. The Supreme Court held Kansas courts have jurisdiction over crimes partly committed in Kansas by a criminal actor who commits either an act that constitutes a constituent and material element of the offense or an act that is a substantial and integral part of an overall continuing criminal plan and the act causes an effect or consequence in Kansas close enough in time or cause to be a proximate result. Here, Rozell’s out-of-state actions that led to the investigation in Kansas of an insurance claim on a Kansas insurance policy held by a Kansas resident caused a consequence or effect in Kansas close enough in time or cause to the alleged criminal acts of insurance fraud and making a false information to qualify as a proximate result that allows Kansas to exercise jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the Wyandotte County District Court, which had dismissed the case based on lack of jurisdiction.

    Appeal No. 121,768: John Doe H.B., an individual v. M.J., Individually and in His Capacity as a Priest at St. Matthew Parish, and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas, a Kansas Not for Profit Corporation

    Appeal No. 121,768 archived oral argument

    H.B. filed a suit alleging a priest sexually abused him in Shawnee County when H.B. was a child. The suit sought damages from the priest and the archdiocese that employed the priest. H.B. asserted the abuse took place from when he was about 9 years old until he was about 12 years old, which is to say, from around 1980 to around 1984. He also asserted he had repressed his memories of the incidents until local media published reports about other abuse involving priests and children.

    Before the parties completed discovery or went to trial, the defendants filed motions for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, arguing the claims were time-barred. The district court denied the motions, and the Court of Appeals took the case on interlocutory appeal. After the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment, the Supreme Court granted the defendants’ petition for review.

    The Supreme Court affirmed both the Court of Appeals and the Wyandotte County District Court and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. Writing for the court majority, Justice Eric Rosen noted that further discovery will be necessary to establish the time frame of the abuse and the time frame for discovery of the abuse. These will ultimately be questions of fact for determination in the district court, and the answers to these questions will govern whether H.B. filed his petition in time to preserve his cause of action.

    The statute of repose, K.S.A. 60-515(a), requires a plaintiff to commence an action no more than eight years after the events that caused harm. But the statute creates an exception for injuries resulting from sexual abuse. K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 60-523 allows a plaintiff to bring an action for childhood sexual abuse up to three years after the plaintiff turns 18 or three years after the plaintiff discovers injuries caused by childhood sexual abuse. The combination of the two statutes has the effect of permitting lawsuits when the abuse took place after July 1, 1984. The Supreme Court held that H.B.’s petition was sufficient to include dates after July 1, 1984, and it was a question of fact when the abuse finally stopped and when he discovered the resulting harm.

    The Archdiocese argued separately that claims against it were-time barred because the K.S.A. 60-523 child-abuse exception applies only to suits against individuals, not suits against institutions. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that the statutory exception focuses on harm resulting from abuse, not on perpetrator liability.

    In a concurring opinion, Justice Caleb Stegall, joined by Chief Justice Marla Luckert, agreed with the outcome but disagreed with the majority’s determination that K.S.A. 60-523 contains no requirement that a defendant must have been the active perpetrator of the abuse. The concurring justices would find the statute ambiguous but would hold the Archdiocese potentially liable under a theory of aiding and abetting.

    Appeal No. 122,331: State of Kansas v. Jeremiah J. Tafolla

    Appeal No. 122,331 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Sedgwick County District Court’s decision to revoke Tafolla’s probation under the dispositional departure exception, K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3716(c)(9)(B), and to impose his original prison sentence. When revoking Tafolla’s probation, the district court did not expressly state that it was relying on the dispositional departure exception. A Court of Appeals panel affirmed by a two-thirds majority and Tafolla petitioned for review. In an opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court affirmed the panel, finding that there was no abuse of discretion by the district court. The Court rejected Tafolla’s argument particularized findings were required for the district court to use the dispositional departure exception as the basis for revoking Tafolla’s probation. Justice Eric Rosen dissented.

    Appeal No. 123,820: State of Kansas v. Michael A. Fowler

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    Following Fowler’s convictions for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and one count of felony theft, the Barton County District Court denied Fowler’s motion for a downward sentencing departure and sentenced him to two consecutive hard-50 life terms for the murders and a concurrent 21-month term for the theft. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Fowler’s sentence. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court rejected Fowler’s claim that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to grant a downward departure sentence, citing the court’s comprehensive analysis that determined the mitigating factors advanced by Fowler did not constitute substantial and compelling reasons to depart from the statutory presumptive sentence.

  • 15 Apr 2022 11:11 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,611: L. Ruth Fawcett Trust v. Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas

    Appeal No. 120,611 archived oral argument

    The In the second appeal of a class action case alleging a breach of the implied duty to market gas and underpaid royalties, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision affirming the Seward County District Court’s holdings in this case. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court held that the law of the case doctrine precluded the class of royalty owners (Class) from relitigating its claim that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas breached its implied duty of good faith and fair dealing as alleged in a motion to amend the petition. The Court also held that the Class was not entitled to prejudgment interest for the Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas ‘s wrongful deduction of conservation fees because the damages did not become liquidated until the parties entered a stipulated award for damages. Finally, the Court held that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas was equitably estopped from asserting a statute of limitations defense against the Class’ claim that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas improperly deducted conservation fees from its royalty payments.

  • 01 Apr 2022 11:12 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 121,944: State of Kansas v. Jennifer L. Goodro

    Appeal No. 121,944 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed a decision denying Goodro’s motion to suppress drug evidence. Goodro relied on K.S.A. 22-2401(c)(2)(A), which limits misdemeanor arrests to situations where an officer has probable cause to believe the suspect will not be apprehended. Based on evidence Goodro had not given her last name, lived in another city, had transportation problems, and had a prior theft conviction, and failure to appear. The Reno County District Court denied Goodro’s motion, a Court of Appeals panel affirmed, and Goodro petitioned for review. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Taylor Standridge, the Court affirmed the panel. The totality of the circumstances from the objective standpoint of a reasonable law enforcement officer supported the district court’s finding of probable cause.

    Case No: 124,395: In the Matter of Daniel J. Martinez

    Case No: 124,395 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court suspended Martinez from the practice of law in Kansas for three years for violations of KRPC 1.1 (competence); KRPC 1.4 (communication); KRPC 1.5 (fees); KRPC 1.15 (safekeeping property); KRPC 1.16 (terminating representation); (communications concerning a lawyer’s services); and KRPC 8.4 (professional misconduct). However, imposition of the suspension is stayed, and the respondent is placed on probation for three years.

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