Kansas Supreme Court
EMERGENCY PROCEDURES—QUO WARRANTO
KELLY V. LEGISLATIVE COORDINATING COUNCIL
ORIGINAL ACTION—QUO WARRANTO GRANTED IN PART
NO. 122,765—APRIL 11, 2020
FACTS: Because of the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, Governor Kelly issued an emergency proclamation and follow-up executive orders. Under statute, the state of disaster emergency could not last longer than 15 days unless ratified by a concurrent resolution of the Legislature. Within that 15-day window, the legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution 5025, extending the Governor's declaration to May 1, 2020. Governor Kelly used her emergency powers to issue Executive Order 20-18 which temporarily prohibited "mass gatherings", defined as any event that would bring together more than 10 people in an enclosed space. Importantly, Executive Order 20-18 removed religious gatherings from a list of exempted activities. Acting under HCR 5025, the Legislative Coordinating Council convened, voted, and revoked Executive Order 20-18. Governor Kelly filed this original action in quo warranto, and expedited proceedings were allowed given the unusual circumstances.
ISSUE: (1) Authority of the LCC
HELD: Quo warranto is an appropriate procedure for questioning the LCC's authority to revoke Executive Order 20-18. The House of Representatives and the Senate are not appropriate parties to the action and are dismissed. But the governor has standing to pursue this action. HCR 5025 establishes a conditions precedent which must be met before the LCC can act if the Legislature is not in session, including input from the State Finance Council. The LCC cannot act until the State Finance Council acts. K.S.A. 46-1202 is a general statute which creates the LCC and gives it some authority. In this instance, that statute must give way to the more specific statute, which governs the revocation of executive orders during an emergency.
CONCURRENCE: (Biles, J.) While agreeing with both the outcome and rationale, Justice Biles questions whether HCR 5025 can confer oversight powers on the LCC at all.
CONCURRENCE: (Stegall, J.) The majority reached the right outcome using the right rationale. There are lingering issues with the Kansas Emergency Management Act relating to separation of powers. The plain language of HCR 5025 may produce absurd results, but the court has no authority to rewrite the resolution.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 48-925 -925(b); K.S.A. 46-1202, 48-924, -924(b), 60-1203
state v. coleman
saline district court—reversed and remanded
court of appeals—affirmed
no. 118,673—april 10, 2020
FACTS: In 2013, 2014, and 2015 cases, Coleman granted downward dispositional departure sentences of probation with underlying prison terms. In November 2017 revocation hearing, district court ruled that because probation had been granted as the result of dispositional departures it had authority under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3716(c)(9)(B), effective July 1, 2017, to revoke probation and impose the underlying sentences without first imposing intermediate sanctions. Coleman appealed. In unpublished opinion, Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding the trial court erred in applying K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3716(c)(9)(B) retrospectively. State’s petition for review granted.
ISSUE: Probation revocation
HELD: Court of Appeals judgment is affirmed. The K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3716(c)(9)(B) exception, which allows a trial court to revoke a probationer’s probation without first imposing graduated sanctions if the probation was granted as a result of a dispositional departure, applies only to probationers whose offenses or crimes of conviction occurred on or after that statute’s effective date. District court judgment is reversed and case remanded with directions.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3716, -3716(c)(9)(B); K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 22-3716(c)(11); K.S.A. 20-3018(b), 60-2101(b)
Kansas Court of Appeals
HEFNER V DEUTSCHER
SHAWNEE DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED AND REMANDED
NO. 119,201—APRIL 10, 2020
FACTS: Hefner, Deutscher, and Rottinghaus worked together in their optometry practice as a corporation. As an employee of the corporation, Hefner signed a noncompete agreement barring him from employment within a set geographic area for three years following his employment with the corporation. The contract specified that damages would be awarded for any breach or "threatened breach" of the contract. Over time, Hefner and Deutscher's relationship soured, and both parties proposed strategies that would allow Hefner to leave the corporation. Before the details could be finalized, Hefner located new office space and registered a new tradename with the Kansas Optometry Board. Hefner ultimately resigned instead of finalizing his exit agreement. And instead of practicing, Hefner decided he would rather teach optometry. It was thought that Hefner would work for the corporation for an additional six months, but Deutscher fired him for violating the noncompete clause. Hefner filed suit for breach of contract and wrongful termination. All parties filed competing motions for summary judgment. The district court granted Hefner's motion for partial summary judgment on his breach of contract claim and granted the corporation's motion for summary judgment on Hefner's wrongful termination claim. After a bench trial on the remaining breach of fiduciary duty claim, the district court found that Deutscher and Rottinghaus breached their fiduciary duty to Hefner because their motives for terminating Hefner were not made in fairness and good faith to the corporation. The district court awarded Hefner in excess of $1 million in damages. The corporation, Deutscher, and Rottinghaus appealed.
ISSUE: (1) Hefner's breach of contract claim
HELD: The use of the phrase "threatened breach" in Hefner's employment contract did not mean the same thing as an anticipatory breach. It had a broader meaning under the plain language of the employment contract, and encompassed actions which would lead a reasonable person to believe that a breach is imminent and likely to happen. The district court incorrectly defined "threatened breach", and this error resulted in the district court wrongly granting Hefner's motion for summary judgment. This case must be remanded to the district court for further action.
STATUTES: No statutes cited.
HANSON V. KCC
STEVENS DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED IN PART,
REVERSED IN PART, REMANDED TO KCC
NO. 119,834—APRIL 10, 2020
FACTS: TKO Gas, LLC provides limited natural gas service in Kansas, operating as a middleman to resell gas to customers. TKO assumed contract rights from a previous provider and never went through a formal rate-setting process. Over time, some customers complained that TKO improperly calculated the heat content of the gas it was selling, resulting in a consistent 9.5% overcharge. Staff found that TKO changed the pressure at which is delivered natural gas. TKO acknowledged that this happened, but claimed it was industry standard practice to do so, and that the practice was in its contracts which were approved by the KCC. The KCC held a hearing and determined that none of the customers were entitled to relief. Even though TKO admitted to all of the customers' claims, the KCC ultimately determined that the rates charged by TKO were still reasonable, resulting in no harm to the customers. The district court reversed this finding, ruling that the KCC improperly focused on rate making while ignoring TKO's improper billing practices. The district court ordered the KCC to calculate the exact amount of overbilling and require TKO to pay refunds. TKO appealed.
ISSUE: (1) KCC's ability to address overpayment
HELD: The KCC is not limited to ratemaking or rate-reviewing functions. It has broad authority to determine whether any action is unreasonable or unfair. The KCC erred by only focusing on whether TKO's rates were reasonable, ignoring TKO's flawed billing methodology. TKO's practice of changing the pressure at which gas is distributed resulted in an overcharge and was neither honest nor fair. The KCC erred by not addressing it. But the district court erred by directing the KCC on how to fix this error. The KCC has total statutory control over crafting an appropriate remedy, and the case is remanded to the KCC.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 66-1,201, -1,205, -1,205(a), -1,206, -1,206(a), -1,207, 77-621(a)(1), -621(c)(4)
OIL AND GAS—TAX
IN RE TAX APPEAL OF RIVER ROCK ENERGY COMPANY
BOARD OF TAX APPEALS—AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, REMANDED
NO. 120,387—APRIL 10, 2020
FACTS: In 2016, River Rock acquired producing gas wells, leases, and other assets in Kansas. After taking possession, River Rock learned that the counties in which the wells were located assigned a total appraised value of over $13 million. River Rock appealed while paying its taxes under protest. But River Rock only paid filing fees for a small percentage of its wells. River Rock sought an abatement of the filing fees it did pay. The Property Valuation Division of the Kansas Department of Revenue intervened to defend its valuation methods. After a hearing based on written testimony, BOTA upheld the counties' valuations. River Rock appealed.
ISSUES: (1) Valuing wells based on minimum lease values; (2) minimum leave values creating arbitrary and erroneous valuations; (3) whether BOTA properly considered the evidence; (4) whether BOTA erred when valuing equipment in the wells; (5) filing fee abatements
HELD: Personal property must be appraised at its fair market value. The Kansas Oil and Gas Appraisal Guide does not comply with this statutory directive because it prevents the gross working interest in any producing well from ever dropping to zero. The use of a minimum lease value on limited-production wells creates an assessed value higher than the actual gross working interest value, arbitrarily substituting the higher of two possible values. The Guide does not allow for the proper reconciliation of market values when the working interest value differs greatly from the minimum leave value. When an appraiser uses the minimum lease value, deductions for actual costs and other expense allowances are no longer used. This prevents sufficient consideration of these costs and does not lead to a fair market value of the property. Actual evidence shows that River Rock has wells with negative gross working interest, but the assigned minimum lease values do not reflect fair market value. BOTA did not ignore relevant evidence, rather overly simplified the evidence. River Rock cannot tie the value of its equipment to variable market conditions which ultimately affect the price of natural gas. BOTA properly valued River Rock's equipment with one exception: BOTA erred when valuing segments of underground poly flow lines. BOTA disregarded uncontroverted evidence that the lines could not be salvaged without destroying them. Filing fees are not allowed if they exceed the reasonable costs of administering the appeals. Neither BOTA nor River Rock properly calculated River Rock's filing fees, but the record on appeal does not contain enough information to determine how much abatement should have been granted to River Rock. If BOTA wants to deny River Rock's request for abatement, it must explain why.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 77-603(a), -613(e), -621(a)(1), -621(c), 79-329, -331(a), -501, -503a
STORMONT-VAIL HEALTHCARE V. SIEVERS
SHAWNEE DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 121,109—APRIL 10, 2020
FACTS: Stormont-Vail received a consent judgment against Sievers for unpaid medical expenses. The amount of the debt is undisputed. Sievers refused to set up a payment plan and instead asked Stormont-Vail to garnish him. Stormont-Vail took him up on his offer and filed two requests for orders of garnishment: one from his employer and one to attach Sievers' other property held in bank accounts. Sievers objected to the garnishment order at his bank, arguing that the funds in his bank account were exempt from attachment because the funds met the definition of "earnings." The district court disagreed with Sievers, finding that once Sievers' paycheck was deposited into a bank account the money became garnishable. Sievers appeals.
ISSUE: (1) Whether wages deposited into a bank account can be garnished
HELD: Kansas statutes create limits on how much of a debtor's earnings can be attached by a nonwage garnishment order. Only an employer can act as the garnishee for a wage garnishment. The meaning of "earnings" is expressly tied to an employer-employee relationship, and once money paid as earnings is deposited into a bank account it loses its status as earnings. The money in Sievers' bank account was garnishable, even if the funds originated from his earnings.
DISSENT: (Standridge, J.) Wages paid by an employer are earnings. So wages electronically paid to Sievers by his employer via direct deposit into his bank account meet the statutory definition of earnings and are exempt from attachment through garnishment.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-2310(a)(1), 61-3504(a), -3504(b), -3505(a), -3506(g), -3507, -3507(a), -3508, -3509, -3510; K.S.A. 61-3502, -3505
constitutional law—criminal procedure—evidence—juries—jury instructions
state v. albano
riley district court—affirmed
no.120,767—april 10, 2020
FACTS: Albano convicted of distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. On appeal she claimed: (1) district court erred by failing to give a limiting instruction concerning the admission of evidence of Albano’s prior drug convictions; (2) district court undermined jury’s power of nullification by instructing jury that it “must” follow the law and that it was jury’s “duty” to do so; and (3) sentencing court’s use of judicial findings of prior convictions to sentence Albano violated section 5 of Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights - the right of trial by jury.
ISSUES: (1) limiting instruction—prior crimes; (2) jury instructions—power of nullification; (3) sentencing—Kansas Constitution
HELD: State’s argument that Albano invited the limiting-instruction error is rejected. A defendant does not waive applicability of a limiting instruction simply by introducing K.S.A. 60-455 evidence because a limiting instruction is required regardless of which party introduced the evidence. Here, district court erred in failing to give a limiting instruction, but this failure was not clearly erroneous. Unclear how jury could have impermissibly relied on Albano’s prior convictions as general propensity evidence when it was undisputed she committed the acts in question, and jury’s acquittal on one of the three charges establishes that jury did not impermissibly rely on the prior convictions to establish guilt.
District court did not err in giving legally correct instructions. State v. Boothby, 310 Kan. 619 (2019), determined that the same “must follow the law” language Albano challenged in one instruction did not interfere with jury’s power to nullify. The “duty” language challenged in a second instruction is substantively identical—telling jury to follow the law.
There is no authority for the proposition that section 5 provides greater protection than the federal jury trial right by requiring a jury to determine criminal history. And the section 5 jury trial right does not prohibit judicial findings of prior criminal history because there was no common law right to have a jury determine criminal history when the Kansas Constitution was adopted.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 22-3414(3); K.S.A. 60-455
constitutional law—criminal procedure—evidence
state v. R.W.
douglas district court—affirmed
no. 120,854—April 10, 2020
FACTS: Juvenile R.W. was interrogated several hours at police facility after being picked up from high school by two police officers. State later charged R.W. with multiple criminal counts including rape and aggravated battery, and district court certified R.W. for trial as an adult. R.W. filed motion to suppress statements he made during interrogation. District court granted the motion, finding R.W.’s statements were not the product of a free and independent will, and citing the officers’ promises, benefits, and reassurances as resulting in R.W.’s will being overborne. State filed interlocutory appeal.
ISSUE: Fifth Amendment—juveniles
HELD: District court’s suppression order is affirmed. Totality of circumstances in this case suggest that R.W.’s confession was not the product of a free and independent will. Standard of care to be exercised in assessing the validity of a juvenile’s statements during interrogation without counsel present is discussed. Here, substantial competent evidence supported district court’s factual findings, and district court applied the correct legal analysis. Agreement stated with specific findings and considerations in district court’s comprehensive memorandum decision. Officers may have had good intentions, but statements made to juveniles that are likely to mislead them regarding the nature and legal consequences of an interrogation have the potential to render a confession involuntary.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 22-3603, 60-460(f); K.S.A. 60-460(f)