Kansas Supreme Court
ORDER OF INDEFINITE SUSPENSION
IN THE MATTER OF HARRY LOUIS NAJIM
NO. 116,943 – DECEMBER 1, 2017
FACTS: This disciplinary matter arose after Najim was caught offering to provide legal services to an undercover agent engaged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking. Najim's retainer was paid in cash, and Najim did not notify his law firm about the payment in excess of $10,000 cash so that it could report the payment to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The failure to report is a Class D federal felony, and after a conviction a hearing panel determined that Najim violated Rule 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act reflecting adversely on the lawyer's honesty).
HEARING PANEL: Najim pled guilty to one of the 44 counts that were filed against him in federal court. But after the disciplinary administrator filed its complaint, Najim denied that his conduct violated Rule 8.4(b). The disciplinary administrator asked that Najim's license be suspended indefinitely, retroactive to a temporary suspension that was entered after criminal charged were first filed. Najim thought that a 2-year suspension was appropriate, retroactive to May 2015. A majority of the hearing panel ultimately recommended that Najim be suspended for three years, with suspension running from the date of the Supreme Court's opinion.
HELD: Although Najim disputes the idea that he committed a crime, the record of criminal judgment was admitted into evidence during the disciplinary hearing. That judgment is conclusive evidence that a crime was committed. And the crime of which Najim was convicted was one of dishonesty. The evidence before the court warrants an indefinite suspension from the practice of law.
IN THE MATTER OF BRANDY L SUTTON
NO. 117,395 – DECEMBER 1, 2017
FACTS: A hearing panel found that Brandy L. Sutton violated KRPC 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). The complaint arose after a former employee accused Sutton of failing to make promised contributions to that employee's individual retirement account. A review by the employee revealed a shortfall of almost $9,000. Sutton disputed the amount but acknowledged there were some shortfalls which were caused by the law firm's financial distress. And, Sutton claimed, that distress was caused by the employee's negligence.
HEARING PANEL: After being notified of these issues, Sutton made whole not only the complaining employee but also other employees whose IRAs were not properly funded. The disciplinary administrator asked that Sutton be indefinitely suspended, although he acknowledged that a shorter term might be appropriate. Sutton asked that she be allowed to continue practicing law, subject to a probation plan. The hearing panel agreed with Sutton that probation was a good option for Sutton.
HELD: The hearing panel's findings were adopted. The court found that Sutton's behavior was, essentially, conversion, and that conversion historically warrants a more severe sanction than probation. Accordingly, a majority of the court elected to impose a three-year suspension, subject to lifting the suspension after six months upon application. A minority of the court would have approved the probationary plan suggested by the hearing panel.
NEGLIGENCE – TORTS
MCELHANEY V. THOMAS
RILEY DISTRICT COURT – AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, REMANDED
COURT OF APPEALS – AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART
NO. 111,590 – DECEMBER 1, 2017
FACTS: Thomas was driving a pick-up truck when he ran over McElhaney's feet in a school parking lot. It is undisputed that Thomas was driving, but there was no agreement about his state of mind at the time. Thomas claimed it was purely an accident. McElhaney testified that Thomas told her that he just meant to "bump" her with the truck. McElhaney brought claims for both negligence and intentional tort theories. She later asked to amend her petition to include a claim for punitive damages, but that request was denied. The district court also dismissed her intentional tort claim, finding there was no evidence of an intent to injure. The Court of Appeals agreed with this assessment. And a majority of the panel upheld the district court's ruling disallowing a claim for punitive damages. This appeal followed after McElhaney's petition for review was granted.
ISSUE: Standard for proving tort of civil battery
HELD: An intent to injure is a necessary element of the tort of battery in Kansas. This includes both the intent to do actual harm and the intent to cause an offensive contact. A person may be guilty of civil battery if the defendant intends to make an offensive contact and bodily harm results. In so ruling, the court does away with the concept of "horseplay" as a legal category. And because McElhaney should have been allowed to bring her battery claim, the district court also erred by not permitting McElhaney to amend her petition and claim punitive damages.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 60-3703
constitutional law – criminal procedure – sentencing – statutes
state v. simmons
saline district court – affirmed; court of appeals – affirmed
No. 108,885 – december 1, 2017
FACTS: Simmons convicted of drug offense in 2005. Prior to her release on parole, Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) was amended to require registration of drug offenders. When Simmons was charged with failing to register, district court found her guilty and ordered payment of $200 DNA database fee. On appeal Simmons claimed: (1) the retroactive application of the KORA registration requirement violated the Ex Post Facto Clause; (2) it was error to impose the DNA database fee because she would have provided a DNA sample before her release on parole; and (3) even if the KORA registration was not punishment, it was part of her 2005 sentence which could not be modified by the executive branch. Court of Appeals affirmed. 50 Kan.App.2d 448 (2014). Simmons’ petition for review granted.
ISSUES: (1) Ex Post Facto Challenge, (2) Modification of Sentence, (3) DNA Database Fee
HELD: Under State v. Petersen–Beard, 304 Kan. 192 (2016), lifetime sex offender registration does not constitute “punishment” for Eighth Amendment and ex post facto challenges. Record in this appeal is insufficient to demonstrate that drug offenders as a class are distinguishable from the class of sex offenders such that KORA registration becomes punitive rather than civil when applied to drug offenders.
Challenge to authority of executive branch to order Simmons to register is issue of first impression. Simmons’ 2005 criminal sentence is not illegal, and has not been “modified” by the post–sentencing registration obligation.
District court did not err by imposing the DNA database fee required by K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 75–724. Simmons failed to show that she previously paid a DNA database fee or that she did not submit a DNA sample for the current offense.
DISSENT (Beier, J., joined by Rosen and Johnson, JJ.): Consistent with dissent in Petersen–Beard, Kansas offender registration requirement is punishment for sex or violent offender, and no less so for drug offender. Simmons met burden of showing an ex post facto violation in this case.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 75–724, –724(a)–(b); K.S.A. 22–4901 et seq.
appeals – criminal procedure – juries
state v. mcbride
shawnee district court – reversed
court of appeals – reversed
No. 112,277 – december 1, 2017
FACTS: McBride convicted of kidnapping. On appeal he claimed he was denied a fair trial because prosecutor asserted the alleged victim deserved consideration similar to the presumption of innocence constitutionally recognized for criminal defendants. In unpublished opinion, Court of Appeals agreed that this was prosecutorial error but found the error was harmless under State v. Tosh, 278 Kan. 83 (2004). Review granted on this issue.
ISSUE: Prosecutorial Error – Harmless Error
HELD: No cross–petition of panel’s determination that the prosecutor misstated the law, so only issue on appeal is whether this prosecutorial error was harmless. Harmless error inquiry in Tosh was abandoned in State v. Sherman, 305 Kan. 88 (2016). Applying Sherman to facts in this case, where prosecutor improperly tried to bolster victim’s credibility by claiming she deserved a credibility presumption akin to McBride’s presumption of innocence, denied McBride a fair trial. Kidnapping conviction is reversed and case is remanded to district court.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21–5408(a)(3); K.S.A. 20–3018(b), 60–261, –2101(b)
criminal procedure – habeas corpus – sentencing
state v. buford
wyandotte district court – affirmed
No. 114,175 – december 1, 2017
FACTS: Buford is serving a life sentence imposed for 1990 felony murder conviction. e filed 2014 motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing the parole board instituted a new sentence each time it denied him parole, and these “sentences” were illegal because the parole board should have classified his pre–1993 crime as a nonperson felony. District court summarily denied the motion. Buford appealed.
ISSUE: Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence
HELD: The denial of parole is not a sentence, so K.S.A. 22–3504 has no application. Claim is not construed as habeas motion because it is not clear Buford has exhausted administrative remedies.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 22–3504, 60–1501; K.S.A. 21–5401(a), 22–3717(b) (Ensley 1988)