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Supreme Court releases for June 14, 2019

21 Jun 2019 9:10 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions June 14: 

Appeal No. 113,267: Luke Gannon, et al v. State of Kansas

Archived oral argument video

Gannon v State case page

The Supreme Court, in the public school finance case of Gannon v. State, held the State has shown that the 2019 Legislature's scheduled base aid increases are in substantial compliance with the court's June 25, 2018, mandate. This is the court's seventh decision in the Gannon litigation.

In 2018 the court had held that despite legislation enacted in 2017 and 2018, the State still had not met its burden of complying with the adequacy requirements of Article 6, section 6(b) of the Constitution of the people of Kansas.  That section obligates the Legislature to "make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state."

But even though the State had not met its burden, the court acknowledged in 2018 the State had expressed an intent to comply with the education adequacy threshold discussed in a 2006 school finance case, Montoy v. State. In what it referred to as its "Montoy safe harbor" plan, the State reasoned that if it returned to the basic funding formula approved in Montoy  for school year 2009-10 and fully funded that formula—including accounting for years of inflation—it would again reach a constitutionally adequate funding level

After careful analysis, the 2018 court accepted the State's Montoy safe harbor approach. But it held that to satisfactorily address the remaining concerns with adequacy, the State needed to make timely financial adjustments in response to two specific inflation problems. The court stayed the issuance of the mandate more than one year—until June 30, 2019—or further order of the court for the State to resolve the identified inflation problems with its plan

In response, the 2019 Legislature passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 (S.B. 16) in an effort to cover inflation with additional funding and thus complete its Montoy safe harbor remediation plan. On April 6, 2019, Governor Kelly signed S.B. 16 into law. The court today held that through S.B. 16's additional funding of the State's safe harbor plan—specifically the annual increases to base aid in the amount of about $90 million per year for four years—the State has substantially complied with the court's 2018 mandate. Although holding that S.B. 16's schedule for additional funding substantially complies with the mandate, the court retains jurisdiction to ensure continued implementation of the plan.

Appeal No. 112,765: Diana K. Hilburn v Enerpipe Ltd.

Archived oral argument video

The Supreme Court struck down the statutory noneconomic damages cap in personal injury cases other than medical malpractice actions in Hilburn v. Enerpipe Ltd., ruling that the cap violates the right to trial by jury set out in section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights.

A plurality of four justices held in favor of Hilburn, who was injured in a car-truck accident and whose jury award had been reduced by the cap under K.S.A. 60-19a02. The justices agreed that the cap improperly intruded upon the jury’s determination of the compensation owed personal injury plaintiffs such as Hilburn to redress their injuries. The language of section 5 states that the right of trial by jury “shall be inviolate.”

Justice Carol A. Beier wrote the lead opinion for the plurality. She was joined by Justices Eric S Rosen and Lee A. Johnson. Justice Caleb Stegall concurred in the plurality judgment and in part of the lead opinion’s reasoning. Justices Marla Luckert and Dan Biles dissented. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss did not participate in the decision.

The lead opinion departed from the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Johnson, which dealt with a noneconomic damages cap on a medical malpractice jury award. The justices said that the Miller application of a specific legal test to analyze section 5 was erroneous. It “overlooked long-standing limitations on the Legislature’s power to modify the common law; overestimated the persuasive force of prior Kansas cases; and shortcut the necessary cost-benefit evaluation necessary when examining whether to keep or jettison originally erroneous precedent.” Although the plurality acknowledged that it is within the power of the Legislature to modify common law, “what may have been a mere common-law right to jury trial on the day before ratification of section 5 was no longer a mere common-law right from ratification onward.”

Justice Stegall’s concurrence agreed that the legal test applied to analyze section 5 in Miller should be forsaken. He viewed the cap’s invasion of the “historic province of the jury to decide a contested matter” as a “close call” but ultimately concluded that the Legislature had run afoul of the plain and original public meaning of section 5.

Justice Luckert, writing for herself and Justice Biles, would have upheld the cap by applying the legal test from Miller. In their view, various statutes and regulations mandating motor carrier liability insurance and K.S.A. 60-19a02 were “reasonably necessary in the public interest to promote the public welfare” and the Legislature had “substituted an adequate statutory remedy for Hilburn's right to have a jury determine her damages.” The dissenters also expressed concern that their colleagues downplayed the consequences of overruling Miller and that the decision "upends caselaw addressing jury trial limitations imposed in workers compensation, medical malpractice, no fault insurance, and general tort litigation."

Appeal No. 113,472: State of Kansas v. Robert M. Weber

Archived oral argument video 

The Supreme Court rejected Weber's challenge of his sentence resulting from a 2007 attempted robbery conviction. Weber claimed the district court improperly considered a 1976 Michigan conviction when sentencing him for the Kansas crime. The court said Weber's sentence was legal at the time it was imposed and more recent Kansas caselaw had not changed that.

Case No. 115,352: Kelly Casper v. Kansas Department of Revenue

Archived oral argument video 

The Kansas Department of Revenue suspended Casper's driving privileges after she was arrested and she refused to take a blood alcohol test. At an administrative hearing, KDOR affirmed the administrative action, concluding that law enforcement had reasonable grounds to believe she was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and was lawfully in custody. On appeal to the Sedgwick County District Court, the judge disagreed with the conclusion that the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe that she had been under the influence of alcohol and reinstated her driving privileges. The Court of Appeals disagreed and held that the district court abused its discretion and based its decision on findings that the evidence did not support. On review of that decision, Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, reversed the Court of Appeals. The court noted that appellate courts do not reweigh the evidence and concluded that substantial evidence supported the district court's factual findings, which, in turn, led to correct legal determinations.

Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released

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