Kansas Supreme Court Decisions, June 30, 2023

30 Jun 2023 1:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
Appeal No. 123,063: Kansas Fire and Safety Equipment, A Kansas Corporation, Hal G. Richardson D/B/A Bueno Food Brand, Topeka Vinyl Top, and Minuteman Solar Film v. City of Topeka, Kansas 

Appeal No. 123,063 archived oral argument

he Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals judgment holding that the Shawnee County District Court and the Kansas appellate courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case. Kansas Fire and Safety Equipment, Hal G. Richardson d/b/a Bueno Foods Brand and Topeka Vinyl Top, and Minuteman Solar Film were all forced to relocate when the City of Topeka, as part of a public works project, bought the property the businesses leased for their operations. The business tenants sued the City of Topeka in district court for relocation costs under the Eminent Domain Procedure Act. The district court granted summary judgment to the City of Topeka, finding the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's holding regarding subject matter jurisdiction but reversed and remanded for the district court to enter an order of dismissal instead of entering judgment for the City. 

In a unanimous decision written by Justice K.J. Wall, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals judgment. The Court held the Eminent Domain Procedure Act does not give displaced persons the right to sue a condemning authority directly in district court. Nor does it authorize district courts to review relocation-benefit determinations in appeals from eminent domain proceedings. The Court held another statutory scheme, the Kansas Relocation Assistance for Persons Displaced by Acquisition of Real Property Act, provides displaced persons an administrative remedy to recover relocation costs and authorizes district court review of the administrative determination. But the Court held that the business tenants' failure to exhaust this administrative remedy deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction under the Kansas Relocation Assistance for Persons Displaced by Acquisition of Real Property Act. The Court reversed the order of summary judgment and remanded for the district court to enter an order dismissing the case without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Appeal No. 123,100: State of Kansas v. Ronald L. Buchanan

Appeal No. 123,100 archived oral argument

 In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed Buchanan's multiple aggravated arson convictions resulting from a single fire that damaged several occupied units in an apartment building. The court held the aggravated arson statute defines the unit of prosecution as each damaged building or property in which there is a person, therefore a single fire can give rise to multiple convictions. The court also held there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions for attempted first-degree murder and that the Johnson County District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Buchanan's posttrial request for a new trial based on purported conflicts with counsel.

Appeal No. 124,064: State of Kansas v. Darrlyn Michael Johnson

Appeal No. 124,064 archived oral argument

Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, agreeing to an upward departure from the guidelines sentence based on his stipulation to the existence of two aggravating factors. The Shawnee County District Court approved Johnson's plea agreement with the State but did not advise him of his separate statutory right under K.S.A. 21-6817 to have aggravating factors proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court followed the terms of the plea agreement and sentenced Johnson to 180 months in prison with lifetime post release supervision.

 Johnson appealed, arguing for the first time on appeal that his sentence was illegal under K.S.A. 22-3504 because he did knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to a jury trial on the upward departure factors. A Court of Appeals panel interpreted Johnson's challenge as a constitutional challenge, relied on State v. Duncan, 291 Kan. 467, 470-71, 243 P.3d 338 (2010) as an exception to K.S.A. 22-3504's jurisdictional bar on constitutional questions, and affirmed the district court. The State petitioned for review and the Supreme Court reversed the panel, unanimously holding that a claim challenging the constitutional validity of a waiver relinquishing the statutory right under K.S.A. 21-6817(b) to have a jury determine the existence of upward departure factors falls outside the definition of an illegal sentence. Overruling Duncan, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Appeal No. 124,116: In the Matter of the Marriage of Jon Holliday v. Tamara Holliday

 Appeal No. 124,116 archived oral argument

 The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision that the divorced couple's division of marital property judgment expired under the dormancy statute, K.S.A. 2022 Supp. 60-2403, because the former wife failed to timely send the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System a copy of the division judgment within the seven-year period set out in the dormancy statute. By agreeing with the former husband, the Court of Appeals equated this notification as being "a form of execution on that judgment" required by the statute. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court held the dormancy period under the dormancy statute does not run during any period in which the enforcement of the judgment by legal process is stayed or prohibited, and therefore the statute's tolling provision prevented the divorce decree dividing the parties' interests in the former husband's not-yet-payable retirement account with KPERS from becoming dormant until benefits become payable to him.

Appeal No. 124,529: In the Matter of the Marriage of Lisa Michelle Shafer (nka Webster) v. Jon Francis Shafer

Appeal No. 124,529 archived oral argument

 The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision that the divorced couple's division of marital property judgment was not final because the former husband's retirement plan administrator needed more detail to calculate the former wife's share based on the language in the judgment. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court held the division order was a final judgment subject to the dormancy statute since the order finally decided and disposed of the parties' entire merits on the controversy and reserved no further questions. The Court noted the divorce decree provided all information needed to establish the precise information the plan administrator needed. The Court further held the former wife's motion under the relief-from-judgment statute, K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 60-260, was not applicable because her clarification request under that statute does not require substantive change to the original property division.

Appeal No. 124,636: State of Kansas v. Brian C. Bailey

Summary calendar; no oral argument

Bailey was convicted in 1988 of first-degree felony murder and multiple counts of aggravated robbery. In addition to a life sentence, the Johnson County District Court ordered him to pay restitution of about $38,000. Bailey has challenged his conviction and sentence many times during the following years. After one recent appeal to the Supreme Court, it was determined the State had been wrongly collecting restitution from Bailey’s prison account since 2012 based on a county court clerical error, and the collection of those funds was stopped. Bailey subsequently filed a motion arguing that the restitution order itself was void because it was a dormant order of judgment and no civil actions had been filed to keep it alive. He then appealed the denial of that motion to the Supreme Court.

Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous court, held that the Supreme Court is the proper venue for considering challenges to the ongoing validity of the restitution imposed in cases of life sentences and certain off-grid convictions. The Court then held that restitution orders cannot become dormant and the law of the case doctrine precluded Bailey from reasserting claims that the court had previously rejected. The Court affirmed the district court’s decision denying Bailey’s motion for relief.

Appeal No. 126,125: In the Matter of Marvin S. Robinson Charitable Trust

Summary calendar; no oral argument

 In response to amendments to federal rules governing tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, the trustees of the Marvin S. Robinson Charitable Trust sought to modify the terms of the trust so it could continue to hold substantial stock in the settlor's family business. The Riley County District Court entered an order retroactively modifying the trust. The trustees appealed this favorable ruling, seeking a decision from the Kansas Supreme Court under Commissioner v. Estate of Bosch, 387 U.S. 456, 87 S. Ct. 1776, 18 L.Ed.2d 886 (1967), which held that the Internal Revenue Service and federal courts defer to decisions of a state's highest court on issues of state law. In a unanimous decision written by Justice K.J. Wall, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order under K.S.A. 58a-416, a statute that allows a court to retroactively modify the terms of a trust to achieve the settlor's tax objectives. The Court determined the modifications achieved the settlor's intention of having the trust operate as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that was not classified as a private foundation and not subject to limits on stock holdings. The Court declined to decide whether the modifications were also authorized under other statutes of the Kansas Uniform Trust Act that the trustees and district court had cited.

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