• 27 Jan 2023 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 123,684: Nancy Granados v. John Wilson and Key Insurance Company

    Appeal No. 123,684 archived oral argument

     Following a fatal car crash, the Wyandotte County District Court entered judgment against Wilson in a wrongful-death suit brought by the deceased's widow, Granados. To collect on that judgment, Granados filed a garnishment action seeking payment from Key Insurance Company under the automobile liability insurance policy it had issued Wilson. The district court entered judgment in favor of Granados for $3,481,901.29, but a panel of the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision, finding Key Insurance Company's conduct had not caused the judgment against Wilson. In a unanimous decision written by Justice K.J. Wall, with Justice Dan Biles not participating, the Court clarified that under decades of Supreme Court precedent, insurers have an implied contractual duty to act in good faith and with reasonable care under the circumstances when handling claims against its insureds. The Court held the Court of Appeals panel erred by attempting to define the insurer's legal duty in a more fact-specific, particularized manner—in this instance, by attempting to define the contours of an insurer's purported legal duty to settle under Kansas law. However, after determining Granados had not met her burden of showing that Key Insurance Company's bad faith and negligence had caused the judgment against Wilson, the court affirmed the panel's decision, albeit under a different rationale, and remanded the case to the district court with directions to enter judgment in favor of Key Insurance Company.

  • 23 Jan 2023 11:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 120,566: State of Kansas v. Justin Burke Eckert

    Appeal No. 120,566 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court heard this case on a special evening docket October 3 in Parsons.

    A jury convicted Eckert of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threat, cultivation of marijuana, eight counts of felony possession of drug paraphernalia under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21-5709(b)(1), and 17 counts of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21-5709(b)(2). Eckert appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court in part and reversed seven of Eckert's felony possession convictions and 16 of his misdemeanor possession convictions. The Supreme Court granted review on whether the Court of Appeals erred when it held that K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-5709(b) is ambiguous because the term "drug paraphernalia" in the statute could refer to either a singular item of paraphernalia or multiple items. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals judgment, finding that the Legislature intended the term "drug paraphernalia" as used in K.S.A. 2016 21-5709(b) to be tied to a single unit of prosecution. That said, the Court's analytical path differed from the Court of Appeals, as the Supreme Court's opinion stemmed from (1) the ordinary and plain meaning of the term "drug paraphernalia" as used in the statute, (2) the fundamental rule of statutory construction that a court must construe a statute to avoid unreasonable or absurd results, (3) and applying the rule of lenity. Because the court found the term "drug paraphernalia" ambiguous, it did not address a separate sufficiency of the evidence argument pertaining to two of Eckert's felony possession drug paraphernalia convictions.
  • 13 Jan 2023 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Case No. 125,622: In the Matter of Isaac Henry Marks Sr.

    Case No. 125,622 archived oral argument

    Marks was admitted to practice law in Kansas in October 1987. He is also a licensed attorney in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This case stems from disciplinary actions against Marks for his conduct while working as a trustee in the District of Columbia in 2018. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended his law license for one year on June 24, 2021. He failed to notify the Maryland bar of the District of Columbia discipline. This led to indefinite suspension of his Maryland license on November 15, 2021, for a minimum of one year.

    In the Kansas discipline proceeding, Marks and the Disciplinary Administrator's office entered into a summary submission agreement in which he admitted he violated various D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and corresponding Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, including Supreme Court Rule 221(b) (discipline imposed in another jurisdiction).

     Upon adopting the findings and conclusions in the parties' summary submission, the Supreme Court ordered a one-year suspension to run concurrently with his Maryland suspension. The Court also ordered Marks show his Maryland and District of Columbia law licenses are reinstated as a condition of reinstatement of his Kansas license.

  • 06 Jan 2023 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 122,810: Kelly Roe v. Phillips County Hospital

    Appeal No. 122,810 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed the judgment from the Phillips County District Court after the Phillips County Hospital appealed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Kelly Roe. After the Hospital refused to provide Roe with copies of certain requested public records in their native electronic format, Roe filed an action under the Kansas Open Records Act, K.S.A. 45-215 et seq., to compel production. The Phillips County District Court granted summary judgment to Roe, holding the Kansas Open Records Act required the Hospital to provide electronic copies of the records. A Court of Appeals panel reversed that decision on appeal, reasoning that the Kansas Open Records Act contained no mandatory language requiring electronic production. On review, the Supreme Court concluded the Kansas Open Records Act requires a public agency to provide a copy of a public record in the form in which it maintains that record. Thus, the Supreme Court held, because Roe requested copies of records created and stored electronically, the Kansas Open Records Act required the Hospital to provide her with electronic copies of those records.
  • 30 Dec 2022 2:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 123,096: State of Kansas v. Barbara Marie Frantz

    Appeal No. 123,096 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed Frantz's Leavenworth County District Court conviction for first-degree premeditated murder. Her conviction arose out of the 2017 shooting death of her estranged husband outside an apartment complex in the city of Leavenworth. Frantz defended herself at trial by suggesting her son was responsible for the murder.

    Through counsel, Frantz raised several claims of error on appeal, including the district court erred by denying her motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case; there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction; and the district court violated her confrontation rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution by limiting her cross-examination of her son. Representing herself, Frantz also raised numerous other claims of error.

    In an opinion written by Justice K.J. Wall, the Supreme Court held the district court did not err by denying Frantz's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's evidence. The Court recognized that under Kansas caselaw, Frantz likely waived any claim of error regarding the denial of that motion because she presented evidence in her defense that refuted elements of the State's case. Because neither party had addressed the potential waiver on appeal, the Court reached the merits of Frantz's claim and held the State presented sufficient evidence of Frantz's guilt in its case-in-chief and so she was not entitled to a judgment of acquittal. Likewise, the Court held there was sufficient evidence to support Frantz's conviction when looking at the evidence as a whole. The Court also held that while the district court prevented Frantz from asking her son certain questions while he was testifying, those court-imposed limitations did not violate Frantz's right of confrontation because they complied with Kansas evidentiary rules and did not otherwise prevent Frantz from effectively cross-examining her son. Finally, the Court rejected all claims of error Frantz had raised on her own.

    Justice Stegall concurred with the result but would have abrogated the rule that defendants waive the right to challenge the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's evidence whenever they present defense evidence refuting elements of the State's case. Chief Justice Luckert and Justice Rosen joined the concurrence.

    Appeal No. 124,737: State of Kansas v. Meka Richardson

    Summary calendar; no archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Wyandotte County District Court’s denial of defendant Richardson's postconviction discovery request of the ballistics report from her case. The Court unanimously found that the Court of Appeals did not abuse its discretion because Richardson's discovery request failed to allege any reason why the ballistics report may be relevant in pursuing a challenge to her conviction.  
  • 09 Dec 2022 9:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Case No. 125,417: In the Matter of Troy J. Leavitt

    Case No. 125,417 archived oral argument

    In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, Leavitt stipulated to violations of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (2022 Kan. S. Ct. R. 331) (diligence), 1.4 (2022 Kan. S. Ct. R. 332) (communication), 8.2 (2022 Kan. S. Ct. R. 432) (judicial and legal officials), and 8.3 (2022 Kan. S. Ct. R. 433) (reporting professional misconduct). The Supreme Court ordered Leavitt's license to practice law be suspended for one year and his suspension be stayed pending successful participation in and completion of a probation period of one year beginning December 9, 2022.

  • 10 Nov 2022 2:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 122,764State of Kansas v. Harold Glen Ford Jr.

    Appeal No. 122,764 archived oral argument

    In 1993, Ford pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and related charges in Johnson County District Court. His convictions were vacated, and his case remanded for trial in 2016 because it was unclear whether he received a requested competency hearing before his guilty plea and a retrospective hearing was not possible. A jury found Ford guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Ford argued that his convictions should be vacated because the delay between the original charge and his 2019 trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. In an opinion written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Court affirmed Ford's convictions. It ruled Ford's constitutional right to a speedy trial detached upon his first conviction and remained so while he stood convicted. Consequently, none of the delay accumulated during that time could be considered in a speedy trial analysis. Because Ford made no argument the delay that accumulated outside of the time, he stood convicted independently violated his speedy trial right, his appeal failed.

    Appeal No. 123,077State of Kansas v. Richard I. Moler II

    Appeal No. 123,077 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court heard this case on a special evening docket October 3 in Parsons.

    The Supreme Court reversed Moler's two counts of violating the Kansas Offender Registration Act, which makes it a crime for a person subject to its provisions to fail to register "any vehicle owned or operated by the offender, or any vehicle the offender regularly drives, either for personal use or in the course of employment." K.S.A. 2021 Supp. 22-4903(a) (criminalizing registered offender's noncompliance with the act's provisions); K.S.A. 2021 Supp. 22-4907(a)(12) (automobile registration requirement).

    Moler did not register another person's vehicle he drove only once. A Court of Appeals panel divided on how to interpret the statute. The State argued the statute covers vehicles the offender drives one time. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Biles, the court held the registration directive in K.S.A. 2021 Supp. 22-4907(a)(12) is ambiguous. Under the legislative history and the rule of lenity, which favors the accused when a criminal statute is ambiguous, the Court held the statute's mandate does not require an offender to register a vehicle of unknown ownership when the offender has driven it only one time.
  • 31 Oct 2022 11:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 124,493: State of Kansas v. Robert Lee Verge

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

     In 1998, Verge was convicted of capital murder and other crimes committed in Dickinson County. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions in 2001. In 2021, he filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of Kansas courts to try him because he was a resident of Missouri at the time of the crimes. He also alleged he is a “natural living soul, Indigenous Native Moorish-American National,” and not a citizen of the United States. The Dickinson County District Court denied his motion to set aside the convictions, and the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court. Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen held that a defendant’s state of residence has no bearing on a Kansas court’s jurisdiction to try, convict, and sentence that defendant. Regardless of citizenship, place of birth, or place of residence, any individual who commits a crime in Kansas is subject to the jurisdiction of Kansas courts. Furthermore, under the U.S. Constitution, any person born in the United States is considered a citizen of the United States unless the person formally renounces that citizenship, and, because he never followed the proper procedures for surrendering his United States citizenship, Verge was and remains a citizen of the United States.

  • 21 Oct 2022 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Case No. 124,956:  In the Matter of Jack R.T. Jordan

    Case No. 124,956 archived oral argument

    The Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of Jordan, a North Kansas City, Missouri, attorney admitted to practice law in Kansas in 2019.

    The Court agreed with a recommendation from a Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys panel and the Disciplinary Administrator's Office that Jordan should be disbarred for misconduct during federal court proceedings initiated to obtain a document known as the "Powers email" under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Across various pleadings, Jordan persistently accused multiple federal judges of lying about that email's contents, lying about the law, and committing crimes, which included conspiring with others to conceal the document.

    The Court found that Jordan engaged in serious misconduct that included making frivolous claims, disobeying obligations under tribunal rules, making false or reckless statements regarding the qualifications or integrity of judges, and committing conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct adversely reflecting on a lawyer's fitness to practice law. Jordan denied the allegations, arguing discipline could not be imposed because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected his statements. He also claimed his assertions have not been proven false.

     In a unanimous decision, the Court set out the panel's detailed factual findings and conclusions and Jordan's challenges to them. The Court determined clear and convincing evidence established Jordan's multiple violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and held that disbarment is appropriate.

  • 14 Oct 2022 11:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 124,319: State of Kansas v. William D. Albright

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Kingman County District Court denied a motion by Albright to modify his sentence of life with no possibility of parole for 40 years, a hard-40 sentence, which the district court had imposed for a premeditated first-degree murder that Albright committed in 1999. Writing for a unanimous court, Justice K.J. Wall affirmed the district court's denial of the motion under the court's recent precedent holding that K.S.A. 21‑6628(c) does not provide a statutory vehicle for a sentence modification based on a defendant's claim that a hard-40 sentence violates the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013).

    Case No. 125,292: In the Matter of Terrence J. Malone

    Case No. 125,292 archived oral argument

    In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, the court suspended Malone, of Dodge City, from the practice of law for 90 days for violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct regarding conflicts of interest with current clients, duties to former clients, safekeeping property, and candor to tribunals. A minority of the court would have imposed a shorter suspension period.
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