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  • 12 Apr 2019 11:45 AM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decision today: 

    Appeal No. 113,412: Estate of Terrill L. Graber v. Dillon Companies

    Archived oral argument video 

    The Kansas Supreme Court defined the term "idiopathic causes" under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act and revived an injured worker's claim against Dillon Companies after the worker fell down a workplace stairway for reasons that remain a mystery.

    Graber worked as a forklift operator at Jackson's Dairy, a Dillon Companies subsidiary. Jackson's required Graber to attend a paid safety meeting at the nearby Dillon headquarters. When the meeting ended, Graber walked to a restroom near the stairs. He ended up face down on a landing at about the midpoint on the stairway, shattering or breaking three vertebra in his neck. The accident's cause remains a mystery.

    Dillon argued the fall's cause was unknown, which meant Graber's injuries arose from an idiopathic cause and were not compensable. In 2011 the Legislature amended the workers' compensation law to exclude any accident or injury that "arose either directly or indirectly fromidiopathic causes," but did not define the term.

    In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court decided the term means medical conditions or medical events of unknown origin that are peculiar to the injured individual. The court's decision reversed the interpretation given by the Workers Compensation Appeals Board, which denied Graber compensation. The court returned the claim to the board for reconsideration based on the court's definition.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 01 Apr 2019 6:10 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 117,933: In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Thomas Easterberg

    Archived oral argument video

    In Easterberg's original proceeding in habeas corpus to the Supreme Court, he argued that he was ineligible for involuntary commitment under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (KSVPA) because in his criminal case, the sentencing court found his criminal convictions for kidnapping and aggravated battery were not sexually motivated. The Supreme Court held that if a crime's sexual motivation is litigated in a person's criminal case and the crime is determined not to be sexually motivated, the State is estopped from re-litigating that point in a KSVPA proceeding to prove that a crime is a sexually motivated offense for purposes of involuntary commitment under the KSVPA. The Supreme Court remanded Easterberg's case to the Riley County District Court to determine the factual question of whether sexual motivation was actually litigated during Easterberg's criminal case.

    Appeal No. 115,431: State of Kansas v. Michael E. Phillips

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Sedgwick County District Court's denial of Phillips' motion for new trial as untimely. Phillips previously challenged his conviction on felony murder, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, and one count of criminal possession of a firearm. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction on all four counts while vacating lifetime postrelease supervision in a mandate issued February 11, 2013. Phillips subsequently filed a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The district court correctly determined the original judgment was final when the Supreme Court's mandate was issued and denied the new trial motion because it was filed more than two years later.

    Appeal No. 116,406: State of Kansas v. Mark T. Salary

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Wyandotte County District Court. Salary's life sentence was previously vacated and remanded for resentencing. In this second direct appeal, Salary challenged the district court's decision to deny his motions to dismiss and for exculpatory evidence. He also raised ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsels for the first time on appeal and argued that the district court engaged in misconduct to deny him his right to allocution at resentencing. The Supreme Court unanimously held that the district court did not err by denying Salary's motions, the allegations of ineffective assistance were not properly before the court, and the district court did not engage in misconduct to deny him his right to allocution.  Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence.

    Appeal No. 113,563: Douglas R. Peters v. Deseret Cattle Feeders, Inc. 

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court reversed the Haskell County District Court's order granting summary judgment and remanding for further proceedings. In this employment case arising out of the sale of a cattle feedlot, Douglas Peters, who moved his employment from the old owner to the new, challenged his termination claiming breach of an implied-in-fact employment contract and promissory estoppel. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, Deseret Cattle Feeders, concluding Peters' employment was at will. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that whether Peters' employment was at will or protected by an implied-in-fact contract was a disputed question of fact. The Supreme Court unanimously held that whether a meeting of minds existed between Peters and Deseret was a genuine issue of material fact preventing summary judgment under the circumstances of this particular case where Peters' implied-in-fact employment contract claim was supported by more than his own subjective understanding or expectation. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision reversing summary judgment and remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 15 Mar 2019 12:19 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal Nos. 112,897 and 119,709: In the Matter of Sam S. Kepfield

    Archived oral argument video

    Kepfield, of Hutchinson, was suspended from the practice of law for violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct governing diligence, safekeeping property, termination of representation, false statement in connection with disciplinary matter, and misconduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

    Appeal No. 112,925: Charles Dawson v. BNSF Railway Co.

    Archived oral argument video

    Dawson filed a claim in Wyandotte County District Court under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act against his employer, BNSF Railway Company, alleging that BNSF’s negligence caused his back injuries. The jury returned a verdict in Dawson’s favor. The Kansas Court of Appeals vacated that verdict, holding that Dawson’s claim was untimely as a matter of law because he should have known of his injury and its cause more than three years before he filed his claim. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. It held that Dawson presented enough evidence to support the jury finding that he should not have known of the injury and its cause more than three years before he filed his claim. The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of BNSF’s remaining issues.


  • 08 Mar 2019 10:37 AM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 117,450: State of Kansas v. Leslie H. Roberts Jr.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Anderson County District Court's summary denial of a motion to correct illegal sentence filed by Roberts. Roberts had been sentenced to a hard-25 life sentence after previously pleading no contest to rape of a child under the age of 14. In his appeal, Roberts conceded that summary denial was appropriate, but he raised a new issue for the first time in his appeal. Roberts argued that the handling of his pre-plea competency issue deprived the district court of jurisdiction to sentence him. The Supreme Court rejected Roberts' argument. Any defect in Roberts' competency proceeding was merely procedural, and a procedural defect in a competency hearing does not deprive a district court of jurisdiction to sentence a criminal defendant.

    Appeal No. 115,110: State of Kansas v. Brian A. Murrin

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals judgment affirming Murrin's convictions in Clay County District Court for felony possession of marijuana, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal trespass, and interference with law enforcement. On appeal, Murrin argued that the district court judge should have instructed the jury that voluntary intoxication was a defense to the criminal trespass and interference with law enforcement charges. 

    The Supreme Court agreed with Murrin that the instruction should have been given. The jury had been instructed that it needed to find that Murrin "knew" that he was not allowed on the property he trespassed on and that he "knew" that the arresting officer was a law enforcement officer. Thus, each crime contained an element that could have been overridden by voluntary intoxication. But, on the facts of the case, including that Murrin's jury rejected a voluntary intoxication defense with respect to the other two charges, the court held that the error was not reversible.

    Appeal No. 115,634: State of Kansas v. Lindsey Nicole Blansett

    Archived oral argument video

    In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court affirmed Blansett's convictions for the premeditated murder and aggravated assault of her young son, Caleb Blansett, in Sumner County. The evidence at trial revealed that Blansett stabbed her son to death while she was suffering from a psychotic episode. On appeal, Blansett argued the jury instructions about her mental disease or defect defense were clearly erroneous because they did not list premeditation as a culpable mental state. In the alternative, she argued the instructions told the jury not to consider how her mental illness impacted her ability to premeditate the crime. Based on its recent decision in State v. McLinn, 307 Kan. 307, 323, 409 P.3d 1 (2018), the court held premeditation is not a culpable mental state that can be negated by the mental disease or defect defense. In addition, the court held the instructions did not prevent the jury from considering how Blansett's mental illness might have affected her ability to premeditate.


  • 04 Mar 2019 9:51 AM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 117,347: State of Kansas v. Andrew Martin Woodring

    Archived oral argument video

    Woodring pleaded no contest to a count of felony murder. Before sentencing, he moved to withdraw his plea, asserting that the State brought undue pressure on him to enter his plea when he was actually innocent of the crime. The Saline County District Court denied the motion, finding that Woodring had entered his plea freely, knowingly, and voluntarily. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the district court, noting that the facts supported guilt under an aiding and abetting theory and the mere existence of time pressure for deciding whether to go to trial is not necessarily so coercive as to compel a court to allow a defendant to withdraw a plea.

    Appeal No. 113,751: State of Kansas v. Wyatt G. Brown

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court vacated Brown's aggravated sodomy sentence and remanded his case to Brown County District Court for a second resentencing.

    Brown was originally sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment after pleading guilty to the Jessica's Law crime. On appeal, a Court of Appeals panel vacated Brown's sentence because the district judge had not followed the proper procedure in imposing the sentence. At resentencing, the judge sentenced Brown to 372 months.

    Brown appealed, arguing that the longer sentence violated the U.S. Constitution and caselaw. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed with Brown. The record of the resentencing demonstrated that Brown was punished for his successful exercise of his legal right to appeal.


  • 22 Feb 2019 11:59 AM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today: 

    Appeal No. 116,801: In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Matthew C. Cone

    Archived oral argument video 

    The Supreme Court affirmed Cone's involuntary commitment under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act. The court held that the Clay County District Court did not abuse its discretion in allowing experts to testify about Cone's results on actuarial tests used to estimate a sex offender's risk of reoffending. The court further held that sufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict that Cone is a sexually violent predator under the Sexually Violent Predator Act.

    Appeal No. 119,198: In the Matter of Linda S. Dickens

    Archived oral argument video

    Dickens, of Overland Park, was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct governing competence, diligence, communication, fees, conflict of interest, termination of representation, expediting litigation, responsibilities of supervisory lawyers, reporting professional misconduct, misconduct, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and conduct that adversely reflects on fitness to practice.

  • 15 Feb 2019 7:19 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 105,183: State of Kansas v. Steve Kelly Moyer

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    This is the second time this Sherman County case was brought before the Supreme Court.         

    Moyer was convicted by jury of five sex crimes against his minor daughter. Previously, the Supreme Court remanded Moyer's case to the district court to determine whether Moyer was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel at his trial. At that time, this court reserved ruling on whether the cumulative effect of other errors at Moyer's trial denied Moyer a fair trial. Following remand, the Supreme Court affirmed Moyer's convictions, holding Moyer was not denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel and rejecting Moyer's claim that cumulative trial errors denied him a fair trial.

    Appeal No. 113,580: State of Kansas v. Jack R. LaPointe

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court today denied a request for new trial from LaPointe, who claimed recent DNA test results would have changed the outcome of his trial for the armed robbery of a Roeland Park Payless store in 2000 In its decision, a divided court narrowed the scope of convictions eligible for postconviction DNA testing under state law. A jury convicted LaPointe of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Years later, he requested DNA testing under a state law authorizing postconviction DNA testing in certain first-degree murder and rape cases. LaPointe argued his prison sentence was similar to those imposed for the statutorily designated crimes so he was entitled to the same testing. A Johnson County district court judge agreed, ordered the testing, but ultimately concluded the results would not have changed the jury's verdict

    Writing for the majority, Justice Dan Biles said the court agreed with the decision to deny LaPointe a new trial. It also concluded a 2013 decision judicially expanding the crimes eligible for postconviction DNA testing based on the term of imprisonment should be overruled.

    "The Legislature has authority to grant a limited right to access postconviction DNA testing procedures without violating equal protection principles," Biles wrote. He was joined in this view by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Justices Eric Rosen and Caleb Stegall.

    Disagreeing, Justice Carol Beier argued the case did not require overruling the 2013 decision, noting LaPointe's long prison sentence was "largely attributable to his extensive criminal history, not to the severity level and long sentences assigned to his crimes in this case." She was joined in dissent by Justices Marla Luckert and Lee Johnson.


  • 08 Feb 2019 12:50 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decision today:

    Appeal No. 116,564: State of Kansas v. Elton D. Donahue

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court rejected Donahue's attempt to have his life sentence declared illegal. A Sedgwick County jury found Donahue guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping for events that occurred in 1973, when Donahue was 16 years old. The district court sentenced him to life imprisonment with a mandatory 15-year term before being eligible for parole for the aggravated kidnapping counts. In 2016, Donahue claimed the sentence was cruel and unusual punishment due to his young age. In a unanimous decision, the court noted it has repeatedly rejected other cases trying to raise constitutional challenges under a state statute that limits challenges to sentences to arguments over jurisdiction, vagueness, or the failure to follow applicable statutes.


  • 25 Jan 2019 12:05 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today: 

    Appeal No. 118,944: In the Matter of Tammie E. Kurth

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court suspended Kurth, of Liberal, from the practice of law for six months for multiple violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct. The court adopted the disciplinary hearing panel's findings of facts and conclusions of law with respect to Kurth's rules violations. Kurth's violations related to her failure to represent clients with reasonable diligence and promptness, keep her clients informed of the status of the matter she was representing them in, charge reasonable fees, and take the necessary steps to protect her clients' interests when terminating representation.

    Appeal No. 119,909: In the Matter of Timothy J. Grillot

    Archived oral argument video 

    Grillot, of Independence, was disbarred from the practice of law for violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct governing competence, diligence, communication, fees, safekeeping property, termination of representation, candor toward tribunal, commission of a criminal act reflecting adversely on lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

    Appeal No. 115,629: State of Kansas v. James Lee Jamerson

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of Shawnee County District Court and remanded with directions for resentencing. In this multiconviction case, Jamerson challenged his resentencing after the district court granted his motion to correct an illegal sentence because of an incorrect criminal history score, but then also modified the duration and concurrent nature of one of his legal, nonbase sentences. The court held that the district court could only correct the illegal sentence. When correcting an illegal sentence, the district court's authority in setting the length of the new prison term includes determining whether the corrected sentence will run consecutive to, or concurrent with, the other sentences. Accordingly, the court affirmed the correction of the illegal sentence and vacated the modification to the legal sentence. Two justices wrote separately, concurring in part and dissenting in part. They agreed that the district court had authority to correct the illegality, but disagreed that correcting the illegality extended to the consecutive or concurrent nature of the sentence.


  • 18 Jan 2019 12:51 PM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

    Appeal No. 115,945: Claudia Geer v. Edward Eby and Key Insurance Co.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed a Cowley County District Court garnishment order against Key Insurance Co. Key was Eby's auto insurance carrier at the time of Eby's traffic accident involving Geer. After settlement negotiations between Geer's insurer and Key failed, Geer sued Eby. Eby did not give notice to Key of the lawsuit, as he was required to do by his policy terms. Eby also did not file an answer to Geer's lawsuit, which ultimately resulted in a default judgment against him After Key refused to pay the policy limit to Geer, Geer requested a garnishment order against Key, which was granted in district court. 

    In reversing the garnishment order, the court held Eby breached his duties under the policy to give Key notice of the lawsuit. In addition, the breach prejudiced Key by depriving it of the opportunity to contest its insured's liability or settle the case without exposing Key to potential liability in excess of its policy limit.

    Appeal No. 115,993: State of Kansas v. Ivan Huizar Alvarez

    Archived oral argument video

    In a decision written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision holding Saline County District Court did not err in imposing court costs under K.S.A. 22-3801 and K.S.A. 28-172a for expenses related to trial preparation. It also reversed a Court of Appeals decision holding Alvarez had not properly preserved or briefed his argument. Alvarez argued the use of a criminal history score to increase a presumptive prison sentence violated his constitutional rights.


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