The Supreme Court and Court of Appeals make their opinions available online as soon as they are filed. The courts also offer online case inquiry to allow public access to a register of actions for the cases brought before the appellate courts.
Appeal No. 122,294: In the Matter of L.L., a minor child, by and through next friends C.W. and T.W., Grandparents, and D.L. and A.W., natural parents
Summary calendar; no oral argument
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals after Grandparents pursued a “co-parenting agreement” regarding L.L., which they sought to have adopted and enforced. While Grandparents had standing to bring the original action to determine most of their initial claims on behalf of L.L. and themselves under the Kansas Parentage Act, they lost that standing when the appeal narrowed to their personal claim. This appeal is dismissed.
Appeal No. 122,525: State of Kansas v. Keno M. Claiborne
In 1994, Claiborne was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, subject to the possibility of parole after 15 years, for first-degree murder and other crimes. In 2018, he moved to correct his sentence, claiming the sentence was illegal. After the Shawnee County District Court denied his motion, he appealed, contending the sentence was ambiguous as to the time and manner it was to be served. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Eric Rosen affirmed the district court. The Supreme Court held the phrase “life parole” means defendants are subject to parole for the remainder of their lives if they are released after serving their minimum prison terms for off-grid crimes.
Case No. 124,619: In the Matter of Jacob Johnson
Case No. 124,619 oral argument
In an attorney disciplinary proceeding, the Supreme Court publicly censured Johnson following his conviction for misdemeanor assault in Colorado. Johnson self-reported the conviction to the Kansas disciplinary administrator, as required by the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, which arose out of a domestic violence incident with his spouse. In recommending public censure, the disciplinary administrator and the disciplinary hearing panel cited Johnson’s participation in therapy and substance abuse treatment, his lack of prior disciplinary actions, and his cooperation with the investigation process, as mitigating factors regarding the appropriate discipline.
Appeal No. 120,339: State of Kansas v. Geldy Gutierrez-Fuentes
Appeal No. 120,339 archived oral argument
The Supreme Court reverses in part and affirms in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals after Gutierrez-Fuentes appealed on theories that his constitutional speedy trial right had been violated, that there was insufficient evidence for his aggravated burglary conviction, and that the Wilson County District Court erred by allowing inadmissible hearsay evidence when witnesses testified about conversations they had through an interpreter. The Court of Appeals panel affirmed the district court, finding no error. The Supreme Court found it was harmless error to allow the contested statements under an erroneous hearsay ruling. Given that the error was harmless, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Appeal No. 122,645: State of Kansas v. Alifonso Eduardo Garcia
Appeal No. 122,645 archived oral argument
A Rooks County jury found Garcia guilty of premeditated murder for killing his wife after officers found her dead in her home and Garcia lying next to her with a wound on his neck. The jury rejected Garcia’s testimony that an intruder killed his wife and left him for dead. The court sentenced Garcia to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Garcia challenged his convictions, arguing the Rooks County District Court erred when it denied him a venue change; admitted autopsy photographs; and declined to instruct the jury it could convict Garcia of voluntary manslaughter if it did not find him guilty of premeditated murder. Garcia also argued his constitutional rights were violated when he did not get a requested venue study. In an opinion written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Supreme Court affirmed Garcia’s convictions. It ruled the court made no error in denying the venue change because Garcia had failed to show presumed or actual prejudice among the jury members. It reasoned there was no error in admitting the autopsy photographs because they were relevant and were not unduly prejudicial. The Court rejected Garcia’s claim of instructional error because the facts did not support giving a voluntary manslaughter instruction. Finally, the Court declined to consider Garcia’s claim that denial of a venue study had violated his constitutional rights because Garcia had failed to bring up the issue in district court.
Appeal No. 121,094: State of Kansas v. Ivan Rozell
This case involves a Missouri resident accused of filing a fraudulent insurance claim against a Kansas insurance policy after a car accident in Kansas City, Missouri. The Supreme Court held Kansas courts have jurisdiction over crimes partly committed in Kansas by a criminal actor who commits either an act that constitutes a constituent and material element of the offense or an act that is a substantial and integral part of an overall continuing criminal plan and the act causes an effect or consequence in Kansas close enough in time or cause to be a proximate result. Here, Rozell’s out-of-state actions that led to the investigation in Kansas of an insurance claim on a Kansas insurance policy held by a Kansas resident caused a consequence or effect in Kansas close enough in time or cause to the alleged criminal acts of insurance fraud and making a false information to qualify as a proximate result that allows Kansas to exercise jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the Wyandotte County District Court, which had dismissed the case based on lack of jurisdiction.
Appeal No. 121,768: John Doe H.B., an individual v. M.J., Individually and in His Capacity as a Priest at St. Matthew Parish, and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas, a Kansas Not for Profit Corporation
Appeal No. 121,768 archived oral argument
H.B. filed a suit alleging a priest sexually abused him in Shawnee County when H.B. was a child. The suit sought damages from the priest and the archdiocese that employed the priest. H.B. asserted the abuse took place from when he was about 9 years old until he was about 12 years old, which is to say, from around 1980 to around 1984. He also asserted he had repressed his memories of the incidents until local media published reports about other abuse involving priests and children.
Before the parties completed discovery or went to trial, the defendants filed motions for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, arguing the claims were time-barred. The district court denied the motions, and the Court of Appeals took the case on interlocutory appeal. After the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment, the Supreme Court granted the defendants’ petition for review.
The Supreme Court affirmed both the Court of Appeals and the Wyandotte County District Court and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. Writing for the court majority, Justice Eric Rosen noted that further discovery will be necessary to establish the time frame of the abuse and the time frame for discovery of the abuse. These will ultimately be questions of fact for determination in the district court, and the answers to these questions will govern whether H.B. filed his petition in time to preserve his cause of action.
The statute of repose, K.S.A. 60-515(a), requires a plaintiff to commence an action no more than eight years after the events that caused harm. But the statute creates an exception for injuries resulting from sexual abuse. K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 60-523 allows a plaintiff to bring an action for childhood sexual abuse up to three years after the plaintiff turns 18 or three years after the plaintiff discovers injuries caused by childhood sexual abuse. The combination of the two statutes has the effect of permitting lawsuits when the abuse took place after July 1, 1984. The Supreme Court held that H.B.’s petition was sufficient to include dates after July 1, 1984, and it was a question of fact when the abuse finally stopped and when he discovered the resulting harm.
The Archdiocese argued separately that claims against it were-time barred because the K.S.A. 60-523 child-abuse exception applies only to suits against individuals, not suits against institutions. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that the statutory exception focuses on harm resulting from abuse, not on perpetrator liability.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Caleb Stegall, joined by Chief Justice Marla Luckert, agreed with the outcome but disagreed with the majority’s determination that K.S.A. 60-523 contains no requirement that a defendant must have been the active perpetrator of the abuse. The concurring justices would find the statute ambiguous but would hold the Archdiocese potentially liable under a theory of aiding and abetting.
Appeal No. 122,331: State of Kansas v. Jeremiah J. Tafolla
Appeal No. 122,331 archived oral argument
The Supreme Court affirmed Sedgwick County District Court’s decision to revoke Tafolla’s probation under the dispositional departure exception, K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3716(c)(9)(B), and to impose his original prison sentence. When revoking Tafolla’s probation, the district court did not expressly state that it was relying on the dispositional departure exception. A Court of Appeals panel affirmed by a two-thirds majority and Tafolla petitioned for review. In an opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court affirmed the panel, finding that there was no abuse of discretion by the district court. The Court rejected Tafolla’s argument particularized findings were required for the district court to use the dispositional departure exception as the basis for revoking Tafolla’s probation. Justice Eric Rosen dissented.
Appeal No. 123,820: State of Kansas v. Michael A. Fowler
Following Fowler’s convictions for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and one count of felony theft, the Barton County District Court denied Fowler’s motion for a downward sentencing departure and sentenced him to two consecutive hard-50 life terms for the murders and a concurrent 21-month term for the theft. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Fowler’s sentence. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court rejected Fowler’s claim that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to grant a downward departure sentence, citing the court’s comprehensive analysis that determined the mitigating factors advanced by Fowler did not constitute substantial and compelling reasons to depart from the statutory presumptive sentence.
Appeal No. 120,611: L. Ruth Fawcett Trust v. Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas
Appeal No. 120,611 archived oral argument
The In the second appeal of a class action case alleging a breach of the implied duty to market gas and underpaid royalties, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision affirming the Seward County District Court’s holdings in this case. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Standridge, the Court held that the law of the case doctrine precluded the class of royalty owners (Class) from relitigating its claim that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas breached its implied duty of good faith and fair dealing as alleged in a motion to amend the petition. The Court also held that the Class was not entitled to prejudgment interest for the Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas ‘s wrongful deduction of conservation fees because the damages did not become liquidated until the parties entered a stipulated award for damages. Finally, the Court held that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas was equitably estopped from asserting a statute of limitations defense against the Class’ claim that Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas improperly deducted conservation fees from its royalty payments.
Appeal No. 121,944: State of Kansas v. Jennifer L. Goodro
Appeal No. 121,944 archived oral argument
The Supreme Court affirmed a decision denying Goodro’s motion to suppress drug evidence. Goodro relied on K.S.A. 22-2401(c)(2)(A), which limits misdemeanor arrests to situations where an officer has probable cause to believe the suspect will not be apprehended. Based on evidence Goodro had not given her last name, lived in another city, had transportation problems, and had a prior theft conviction, and failure to appear. The Reno County District Court denied Goodro’s motion, a Court of Appeals panel affirmed, and Goodro petitioned for review. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Melissa Taylor Standridge, the Court affirmed the panel. The totality of the circumstances from the objective standpoint of a reasonable law enforcement officer supported the district court’s finding of probable cause.
Case No: 124,395: In the Matter of Daniel J. Martinez
Case No: 124,395 archived oral argument
The Supreme Court suspended Martinez from the practice of law in Kansas for three years for violations of KRPC 1.1 (competence); KRPC 1.4 (communication); KRPC 1.5 (fees); KRPC 1.15 (safekeeping property); KRPC 1.16 (terminating representation); (communications concerning a lawyer’s services); and KRPC 8.4 (professional misconduct). However, imposition of the suspension is stayed, and the respondent is placed on probation for three years.