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Supreme Court releases for December 6, 2019

09 Dec 2019 10:23 AM | Tiffany Fisher (Administrator)

The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:

The first two decisions are for cases argued before the Supreme Court at its October 7 special session at El Dorado High School.

Appeal No. 118,448: State of Kansas v. Howard R. Pruitt

Archived oral argument video

The Supreme Court affirmed Pruitt's conviction for first-degree premeditated murder of Phillip Little by a jury in Butler County District Court. Pruitt killed Little with a shotgun after lying in wait for Little outside a mobile home. Trial evidence showed bad blood had developed between Pruitt and Little before the shooting. A mutual acquaintance who was aware of the ongoing feud and that Pruitt was interested in harming or paying someone to harm Little called Pruitt on the night of the shooting to let him know Little's location. On appeal, Pruitt raised multiple challenges. The court held the prosecutor's statement during closing argument—"This seems to be the shotgun, folks. I don't think there's a lot of question about that at this point"—was an impermissible personal opinion but the error did not require reversal of Pruitt's conviction. The court assumed, without deciding, the district judge's failure to instruct sua sponte on reckless second-degree murder and reckless involuntary manslaughter was error. Based on the overwhelming evidence, however, the error did not warrant reversal.

Appeal No. 119,278: GFTLenexa LLC v. City of Lenexa

Archived oral argument video

GFTLenexa LLC leased property that was reduced in size when the City of Lenexa condemned part of it to widen a street. GFTLenexa lost some rental income from a sublessee because the property size was reduced. GFTLenexa sued the city to recover its lost rental income, asserting a claim of inverse condemnation. The district court ruled in favor of the city. GFTLenexa appealed, arguing in part the district court wrongly found the property lease prohibited suing the city. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, held the undivided fee rule precluded compelling the city to pay a second time for land already condemned in an eminent domain proceeding. A party cannot create contractual liability for a third party that was not a participant in a contract between two other parties. Of procedural significance is the holding that inverse condemnation appeals are properly initiated in the Court of Appeals, not the Supreme Court.

Appeal No. 115,247: State of Kansas v. Virgil Patrick Fox

Summary calendar; no oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Fox's motion to withdraw his 1982 guilty pleas for aiding and abetting two felony murders in Cherokee County. Fox filed his motion to withdraw his pleas over 30 years after he entered them and over three years after the Legislature imposed a one-year statute of limitation for filing such a motion. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that Fox did not establish any facts that would constitute excusable neglect to permit his untimely filing.

Appeal No. 115,227: State of Kansas v. Jeremy Claerhout

Archived oral argument video

Claerhout was drinking with friends and became highly intoxicated Driving at a speed far in excess of the legal limit, he hit the rear of another car, propelling it forward nearly 300 yards through a tree, utility pole, and fence. The driver of that car died shortly afterward. A Johnson County jury convicted Claerhout of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless driving. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, and the Supreme Court granted review. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed both the Court of Appeals and the district court. The court held the district court did not err when it allowed the State to present evidence Claerhout had previously entered into a diversion agreement for intoxicated driving. The court also upheld the admission of a police officer's analysis of crash data obtained from measuring devices in both Claerhout's and the victim's cars. Finally, the court held Claerhout was not entitled to assert a voluntary intoxication defense against the second-degree murder charge. The court disagreed with Claerhout's theory that the evidence of his intoxication tended to show he could not attain a reckless state of mind because of his impaired mental function.

Appeal No. 115,713: State of Kansas v. Daniel S. Carpenter

Summary calendar; no oral argument

The Court affirms the Court of Appeals and the Sedgwick County District Court. Carpenter was placed on probation, with an underlying sentence of 55 months in prison followed by lifetime postrelease supervision. Carpenter disputed the lifetime postrelease supervision, arguing the statute was ambiguous and he could also receive 36 months' postrelease supervision and should have received the lesser sentence. The Supreme Court rejected Carpenter's argument that persons sent to prison are treated differently under the statute than persons placed on probation. The court reiterated its statement from earlier in 2019 that the statute does not contain an ambiguity and clearly provides that all persons convicted of a sexually violent crime on or after July 1, 2006 (such as Carpenter) will have lifetime postrelease supervision included in their sentence.

Case No. 121,064: In the Matter of Joan M. Hawkins

Archived oral argument video

Hawkins, of Lawrence, was disbarred from the practice of law for violation of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct governing diligence, safekeeping property, termination of representation, failure to respond to disciplinary authority, failure to cooperate in disciplinary investigation, failure to file answer in disciplinary proceeding, and failure to file motion to withdraw upon suspension.

Case No. 121,208: In the Matter of Andrew M. Delaney

Archived oral argument video

At the time of the hearing in this attorney discipline case, Delaney, a Hiawatha attorney, was under ongoing probation from a previous disciplinary action. The hearing panel found, and the Supreme Court agreed, that Delaney failed in the present case to provide competent representation and failed to avoid conflicts of interest in representing clients in two separate proceedings. The court agreed with the hearing panel's recommended discipline and suspended Delaney's license to practice for one year, but stayed the imposition of that sanction and extended his probation for an additional two years.

CCR Case No. 1318: In the Matter of April C. Shepard

Archived oral argument video

Shepard was publicly reprimanded for violation of the rules adopted by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters governing the failure to maintain impartiality toward each participant in all aspects of reported proceedings or other court-related matters.

Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today
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