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|February 12, 2016, Appellate Court Digests|
Kansas Supreme Court – Attorney Discipline
FACTS: In May 2014, the respondent was charged with three drug felonies. He entered a plea of no contest and was sentenced to a total of 15 months' imprisonment. The respondent has been released from custody but will serve a term of post-release supervision until May 2017.
HEARING PANEL: A hearing panel of the Kansas Board of Discipline of Attorneys determined that the respondent violated KRPC 8.4(b) because his criminal act reflected adversely on his fitness as a lawyer. The panel found several mitigating factors including the respondent's addiction to marijuana and his cooperation with the disciplinary administrator's office. The panel unanimously recommended an indefinite suspension in order to offer the respondent hope that he might be able to resume practicing law in the future.
HELD: Court accepted the hearing panel's recommendation and indefinitely suspended the respondent's law license. The decision was based on the lack of aggravating factors and the significant mitigating factors.
Kansas Supreme Court – Civil
APPELLATE PRACTICE; ATTORNEY FEES; CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION; JOINDER; AND SUPREME COURT
FACTS: This school finance case revisits the Kansas Supreme Court's holding that the legislature must not only fund a "constitutionally adequate education" but must also protect against "unreasonable wealth-based disparities" between districts. Upon remand, a three-judge panel held that the 2015 Kansas legislature's decision to eliminate the statutory school funding system and replace it with block grants caused the state to fall out of compliance with the Gannon I holdings. To cure this noncompliance, the panel ordered the State to restore approximately $54 million in cuts to school district statutory entitlements. At the remand proceedings, the panel ordered the Plaintiffs to join the Kansas State Treasurer and the Director of Accounts and Reports at the Kansas Department of Administration in their personal and official capacities. Ron Estes, State Treasurer, and Jim Clark, Secretary of Administration, were so joined. In addition to appealing the panel's rulings related to the constitutionality of the funding scheme, the State appealed these joinder orders.
ISSUES: (1) Whether the Compulsory Joinder Statute Requires the Joinder of State Officials; (2) Whether the Three-Judge Panel Exceeded the Scope of the Remand Order; (3) Whether the State Complied With the Requirement that School Funding Must Be Equitable; and (4) Whether Attorney Fees are Properly Requested When Not Presented to the District Court
HELD: Officers or agents of the State are bound by an injunction against the State, even if they are not parties to the litigation. And even if those officers or agents refused to comply with a court order, an additional remedy is available with civil contempt proceedings. With that in mind, joinder of State officials was unnecessary and both individuals were dismissed as parties to this appeal. Upon remand, a district court must follow both the "'letter and spirit'" of the remand order, making sure not to consider matters outside of the mandate. In this case, the district court was given "broad authority" to review future legislation, and the block grant legislation was not so substantial a shift in funding procedure as to render it unreviewable. That shift in how aid is funded created a disparity between districts because some districts are able to self-fund while others must divert funds from other sources, resulting in "a denial of reasonably equal access to substantially similar educational opportunities through similar tax efforts." The issue of attorney fees is not properly on appeal where the matter was not raised before the district court and where the moving party did not comply with the appellate rules governing a motion for attorney fees. The judicial branch has an inherent power to enforce court rulings. But the State should be given time to cure the constitutional deficiencies created by the block grant funding system. The State has until June 30, 2016, to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. If it fails to do so, the stay on the district court's ruling will be lifted and there will be no school finance system for the 2017 fiscal year.
CONCURRENCE AND DISSENT: Justice Johnson agrees with the holding on inter-district equity. But he would not have stayed the panel's decision and believes the panel's orders should be immediately enforced.
STATUTES: Kansas Constitution, art. 6, § 6(b); K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 60-219(a)(1)(A), 2102(b)(1); K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 72-6407(f), -6410(a), -6410, -6416(b), -6431(c), -6433, -6434, -8801, -8814(b); K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 72-1127, -6431; K.S.A. 72-6416
Kansas Court of Appeals – Civil
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE; STATUTORY INTERPRETATION; AND TAXATION
FACTS: The Joneses have lived on 10 acres in Wyandotte County since 1994. In 2011, they informed the county appraiser's office that they were growing hay on nine acres. The Joneses do not claim the income from the sale of that hay on their income taxes. The Joneses sought to have their property reclassified from residential to agricultural use. The County refused to change the classification from residential to agricultural, and the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) affirmed that decision. That ruling was appealed, with the Joneses arguing that a mixed-use classification was appropriate.
ISSUE: Whether BOTA Properly Interpreted the Statutes When Determining the Primary Use of the Property
HELD: K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 79-1476 excludes from agricultural classification land that is "primarily used for residential purposes," even if there is some agricultural use of the land. Further, the plain language of the statute prevents suburban residential acreage from acquiring an agricultural classification if the main function of the land is as a residence. The substantial competent evidence presented to BOTA proved that the land was primarily used as a home for the majority of the time that the Joneses have owned it. Accordingly, BOTA did not err by refusing to reclassify the Joneses' property.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 77-621; K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 79-1476
FACTS: Macias, an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility, requested a medical malpractice screening panel to evaluate the performance of Correct Care Solutions, Inc., the contract medical provider for the Kansas Department of Corrections. Statutory procedure required Macias to designate a screening panel member and notify the chairperson of his choice within 10 days. Macias failed to appoint a screening panel member, despite being provided with a list of physicians willing to serve on such a panel. Macias also failed to provide the panel with the required medical records. Because of these failures, the district court granted a motion to dismiss the screening panel.
ISSUE: Whether an Appellate Court Has Jurisdiction to Hear an Appeal From the Dismissal of a Medical Malpractice Screening Panel
HELD: An appellate court must raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction on its own initiative. If jurisdiction is found to be lacking, the appeal must be dismissed. There is nothing in the Kansas Medical Malpractice Screening Panels Act which suggests the existence of a right to appeal the disbanding of a screening panel. And the order is not one which "discharges, vacated, or modifies a provisional remedy" such that it would be appealable under K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-2102(a)(1). In the absence of any statutory jurisdiction, the appeal must be dismissed.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 65-4901(c); K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-254(a), -2102(a)(1); K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 65-4902; K.S.A. 65-4905
GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP
FACTS: Ella Mae Burrell appointed her youngest daughter, Felicia, to be her conservator as part of a durable power of attorney for health care decisions. However, when Ella Mae became impaired, two of her daughters filed competing petitions seeking to be named guardian. In attempting to determine which daughter would be the better choice, the district court heard evidence about Felicia's strained relationship with her siblings; things became so tense that the police were involved on several occasions to ameliorate interactions between the siblings. There were also concerns about Felicia's ability to handle Ella Mae's finances. Because of this testimony, and because of a report from Ella Mae's guardian ad litem, the district court departed from the power of attorney and appointed another daughter, Beverly, to be Ella Mae's guardian and a brother to be her conservator. Felicia appealed that decision.
ISSUE: Whether the District Court May Apply K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 59-3068(a)(1) to Bypass a Nominated Guardian if Good Cause is Shown
HELD: When appointing a guardian, the best interests of the ward are always of primary importance. The statute establishes several factors that should be considered when a guardian is appointed. If the court is asked to depart from a nominated guardian, the best interests evaluation that must be performed includes an assessment of the proposed guardian's ability to "fulfill the statutory requirements of the appointment." In this case, the district court appropriately evaluated the relationships between the siblings, and substantial competent evidence supported the holding that there was good cause to depart from the presumption and name a guardian other than Felicia.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 59-3068(a); K.S.A. 58-627(b)