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December 19, 2014, Appellate Court Digests
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Kansas Supreme Court – Civil

CHILD CUSTODY

CHENEY V. POORE

RAWLINS DISTRICT COURT – REVERSED AND CASE IS REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

COURT OF APPEALS – REVERSED

NO. 110,007 – DECEMBER 19, 2014

 

FACTS: Jeanna Cheney and Zachary Poore had two children – one was from a prior relationship Cheney had with another man. After the parties separated, the district court found that Zachary was the natural biological father of Justine, that both parents dearly loved the children, and that both were fit to be awarded the joint legal custody of Justine. The decision also noted that Zachary was the only father Jocelyn had ever known but that he had no standing to request parenting time with her because he was not the biological father or stepparent. The court held, however, that it could divide custody of the children in an exceptional case and that this was an exceptional case. The court held that to have both Jocelyn and Justine principally reside with Jeanna with only Justine allowed to singly leave the home to exercise visitation with Zachary who is the only father both girls know would be less favorable and more stressful than to have Justine principally reside with Zachary and then return to Jeanna's home to exercise visitation with Jeanna and her older sister. Finding it was in the best interests of Justine to do so, the court granted residential custody of Justine to Zachary. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

 

ISSUES: Child custody

 

HELD: Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the district court erred in applying K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 23-3207(b) (dividing the residency of full siblings between their parents) to the residential custody determination before it. However, Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals, and would not overlook this error and held that the district court's memorandum decision showed that the error led to the district court's decision to award residential custody of Justine to Zachary. Court reversed the district court's residential custody award and remanded the case back to the district court so it could make findings of fact and conclusions of law consistent with the correct legal standards.

 

STATUTES: K.S.A. 21-5604, -5926; K.S.A. 23-3201, -3203, -3207, -3301; K.S.A. 60-1610; and K.S.A. 72-1046

 

DIVORCE

IN RE MARRIAGE OF TRASTER

SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT – AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED

COURT OF APPEALS – REVERSED IN PART AND AFFIRMED IN PART

NO. 106,092 – DECEMBER 19, 2014

 

FACTS: Husband attorney drafted 2004 post-nuptial agreement for distribution of property upon dissolution of marriage, with attorney fees to be paid by party challenging the agreement. Husband initiated divorce proceedings in 2007 and claimed agreement was void because it gave wife a significantly lopsided distribution of property and assets. District court agreed, found the agreement was a separation agreement under K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3), voided the agreement on public policy grounds because it encouraged husband to divorce to protect future assets, allocated couple’s property and assets for just and reasonable outcome under K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(1), and denied wife’s claim for attorney fees. Wife appealed, arguing the post-marital agreement was not governed by statute. Court of Appeals reversed, holding the agreement should be upheld and its provisions enforced. 48 Kan. App. 2d 356 (2012). Panel recognized two types of post-nuptial agreements: (a) those governed by K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3), and (b) all others to be governed by common-law rule with six factor test adopted by the panel based on whether spouses intended to remain married when entering into the agreement. Because agreement in this case was entered into before parties intended to divorce, K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) not applicable. Panel also reversed district court’s denial of wife’s attorney fee claim, and remanded for calculation of appropriate fee under the agreement’s indemnity provision. Husband’s petition for review granted.

 

ISSUES: (1) "Separation agreement” in K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) and (2) statutory requirement for valid, just, and equitable agreement

 

HELD: Issue of first impression in Kansas whether K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) governs marital agreements entered after marriage when parties intend to stay married. Common-law and statutory background is reviewed. Absent legislative clarification, court holds the term "separation agreement” in K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) includes all agreements, entered during marriage, that provide for a spouse’s property rights in the event of divorce or separation, regardless of whether the parties intend to remain married at time of agreement’s execution. District court’s ruling that the 2004 agreement is a separation agreement under K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) is affirmed. Court of Appeals decision to the contrary is reversed.

 

District court’s ruling that the agreement is void as against public policy is reversed. Common-law analysis of whether property division in a separation agreement tends to "invite and encourage” divorce was abrogated when legislature adopted "just and equitable” requirement in K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3). That public policy inquiry in Ranney v. Ranney, 219 Kan. 428 (1976), is disavowed in context of separation agreements governed by K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3)’s "just and equitable” prong. Case remanded to district court for more detailed review into whether the agreement is just and equitable under K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(3) under the circumstances, and whether the indemnity provision requires assessment of attorney fees.

 

CONCURRENCE AND DISSENT (Rosen, J., joined by Johnson, J.): Agrees with majority but for its decision that remand is necessary to determine whether the agreement is just and equitable. Would find the agreement and indemnity provision contemplating attorney fees valid and enforceable against husband as scrivener and legal expert in the formation of the agreement.

 

STATUTES: K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 23-2712, -2802; K.S.A. 20-3018(b); K.S.A. 23-201, -801 et seq., -802, -807; K.S.A. 60-1610, -1610(b)(1), -1610(b)(3), -2101(b); K.S.A. 77-109; and K.S.A. 60-1610, -1610(b), -1610(d) (Corrick 1964)

Kansas Supreme Court – Criminal

STATE V. MEEKS

WYANDOTTE DISTRICT COURT – AFFIRMED

COURT OF APPEALS – AFFIRMED

NO. 106,107 – DECEMBER 19, 2014

 

FACTS: Meeks, claiming battered woman syndrome from years of abusive and manipulative mistreatment, convicted of second-degree intentional murder in shooting death of former partner. She appealed claiming district court erred in (1) refusing her request to establish self-defense claim based on battered woman syndrome, and (2) granting state’s motion in limine barring evidence of specific instances of victim’s abusive and violent acts. Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion, finding Meeks had not asserted self-defense claim at trial, and alternatively, trial evidence would not have supported that claim. Meeks’ petition for review granted to consider panel’s holding that State v. Stewart, 243 Kan. 639 (1988), precluded any claim of self-defense regardless of whether Meeks suffered from battered wife syndrome.

 

ISSUES: (1) Right to present a defense and (2) evidence supporting claim of self-defense

 

HELD: Meeks did not assert claim of self-defense or give any indication to district court that she was attempting to assert self-defense claim at trial. Meeks has no claim on appeal that she was denied right to present evidence on that unasserted – and disclaimed – theory of defense. Court of Appeals affirmed on that basis. Claim regarding admissibility of evidence of past abuse if new trial is ordered is moot.

 

Disapproves Court of Appeals treatment of holding in Stewart, but a complete analysis of that issue is for another day.

 

STATUTES: K.S.A. 20-3018(b); and K.S.A. 60-2101(b)

Kansas Court of Appeals – Civil

PUBLIC EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS ACT AND INJUNCTION

WING ET AL. V. CITY OF EDWARDSVILLE

WYANDOTTE DISTRICT COURT – AFFIRMED

NO. 111,392 – DECEMBER 19, 2014

 

FACTS:The City of Edwardsville opted into the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act in 1999. Doing so gave the city's employees a specific right to negotiate with their employers over conditions of employment. In August 2013, the city voted to opt out of the Act, which is allowed under K.S.A 75-4321(c). The statute provides that a public employer covered by the Act may vote to opt out but that the vote will not take effect until "the termination of the next complete budget year following such vote." The city considered its vote effective at the end of the 2013 budget year and in January 2014 unilaterally imposed new employment conditions on local fire-department employees. The union-member employees obtained a temporary injunction ordering the city to comply with its obligations under the Act, and the city has appealed the order granting the injunction.

 

ISSUES: (1) Public Employer-Employee Relations Act and (2)  injunction

 

HELD: Court held the employees' claim meets all of the standard tests for granting a temporary injunction. The employees were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim under the clear language of K.S.A 75-4321(c), which says the city could not stop following the Act until the next complete budget year following the vote—the 2014 budget year—had ended. In addition, the court had substantial evidence that the employees would suffer irreparable injury if the city stopped following the Act, that the threatened injury outweighed whatever damage the proposed injunction might cause, and that the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. An injunction was also the appropriate remedy in this case because damages would have been speculative and inadequate compensation for the continued loss of bargaining rights. Court affirmed the district court's grant of a temporary injunction.

 

STATUTES: K.S.A. 60-901, -905, -906; and K.S.A. 75-4321

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