Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for driving under the influence, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits the State to use evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's breath test. Before the court of appeals considered Defendant's appeal the Supreme Court published its decisions in State v. Ryce, 368 P.3d 342 (Kan. 2016) and State v. Nece, 367 P.3d 1260 (Kan. 2016). Those decisions declared Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1025's criminalization of a driver's refusal to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing to be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, a consent to submit to BAC testing after being advised that a refusal was a criminal act rendered the consent unduly coerced and invalid. In Defendant's case, the court of appeals concluded that Defendant's consent to search was invalid but affirmed on the basis that the good-faith exception applied to save the evidence from the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permitted the State to convict Defendant with unconstitutionally obtained evidence. View "State v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and related crimes but vacated in part the restitution order, holding that the district court made a legal error when it included $3,642.05 for witness and exhibit expenses in the restitution order. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court erred when it did not offer certain lesser included offense instructions on the first-degree murder charge, but the error was harmless; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant's motion for a continuance; and (3) the district court erred when it ordered Defendant to pay $3,642.05 in restitution to the Saline County Attorney's office for expenses related to witnesses and the preparation of photographic trial exhibits. View "State v. Gentry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment against Northern Natural Gas Company, holding that certification from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting Northern to expand the authorized boundaries of its underground storage field to encompass nearby wells changed the right-to-produce analysis for gas taken before June 2, 2010. Some of the storage gas owned by Northern migrated beneath the earth to nearby wells in areas that Northern did not control through eminent domain or contract. The wells' operators extracted that gas and sold it. In a previous appeal, the Supreme Court applied the common-law rule of capture to rule that the operators lawfully produced and sold Northern's storage gas taken before June 2, 2010, the date when Northern received its certificate from FERC. At issue in this appeal was whether the producers could take Northern's migrated storage gas from wells located within the newly certified boundaries for the storage field after June 2, 2010. The district court ruled on summary judgment that the producers had that right under the common-law rule of capture. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that once the new boundaries were certified Northern's identifiable storage gas within that designated area was no longer subject to the rule of capture. View "Northern Natural Gas Co. v. ONEOK Field Services Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's judgment granting the State's petition to have Robert Sigler found to be a sexually violent predator (SVP) and civilly committed under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-29a01 et seq., holding that this action was not barred by the res judicata doctrine and that the district court did not err by not declaring a mistrial. In 2013, the State unsuccessfully petitioned for Defendant's civil commitment under the SVPA. Defendant was later arrested for parole violations and returned to prison. In 2016, before Defendant's release from custody, the State filed a second petition to commit Defendant. A jury determined that Defendant was a sexually violent predator. On appeal, Defendant argued that res judicata barred the proceeding and that a witness's inaccurate statements about the first KVPA proceeding were so prejudicial as to warrant a mistrial. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because a material change of circumstances occurred that differentiated the second action from the first, this action was not barred by the res judicata doctrine; and (2) the court did not err by not declaring a mistrial. View "In re Care & Treatment of Sigler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for aggravated criminal sodomy, holding that the district court did not err in admitting testimony about the videotaped interview of the child victim and that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. During trial, the child victim testified as a witness. Later, Kasey Corbett, who conducted a forensic interview of the child, testified about the forensic interview she conducted of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a forensic interview is not expert testimony, Corbett did not give expert testimony because her testimony did not include any opinion, and the purpose of a taint hearing was accomplished in this case; and (2) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's aggravated criminal sodomy conviction. View "State v. Howling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child and vacated the portion of district court's judgment imposing postrelease supervision on Defendant's two hard twenty-five life sentences, holding sua sponte that the postrelease supervision order was illegal. Specifically, the Court held (1) harmless prosecutorial error occurred when, in the prosecutor's closing argument, he expanded the time frame in which the crime allegedly occurred; (2) the district court did not err in admitting into evidence a video of an interview of the child victim; (3) Defendant failed to preserve his pretrial objection to the admission of prior acts of sexual misconduct; (4) the district court did not err in not ordering a psychological evaluation of the child victim; (5) cumulative error did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial; but (6) the postrelease supervision order was illegal. View "State v. Ballou" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of aggravated assault and criminal threat, holding that an erroneous judicial comment made in front of the jury that is not a jury instruction or legal ruling will be reviewed as "judicial comment" error under the constitutional harmless test set forth in Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967). On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court judge committed judicial misconduct by commenting during voir dire about a former case in which Defendant was charged with aggravated battery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State, as the party benefitting from judicial comment error, has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the error complained of will not or did not affect the outcome of the trial in light of the entire record; and (2) the State met its burden in this case. View "State v. Boothby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of seven sex crimes and reversed the court of appeals, which reversed two of the convictions sua sponte and remanded the case with directions to resentence Defendant for aggravated incest on those counts instead, holding that the court of appeals erred when it reversed Defendant's convictions sua sponte. The court of appeals reversed Defendant's convictions for aggravated criminal sodomy and rape because it believed that aggravated incest was the more specific crime for both counts. The Supreme Court held (1) aggravated incest, as now defined, is not a more specific crime than aggravated criminal sodomy or rape, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in reversing these convictions; (2) the jury instructions listing criminal sodomy as an alternate to aggravated criminal sodomy were not erroneous; (3) the district court adequately inquired into a potential conflict Defendant had with his attorney; and (4) the jury instruction stating that the "verdict must be founded entirely upon the evidence admitted and the law as given in these instructions" was legally correct. View "State v. Toothman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court upholding the validity of a transfer-on-death deed that was signed by a benefiting party at the direction of the party seeking to make the transfer, holding that the district court did not err. The district court deemed the transfer-on-death deed to constitute an enforceable transfer of Roxie Moore's real property to Maureen Miles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court considered evidence relating to the authority by which Maureen signed the deed, notwithstanding the notary's designation of signature through power of attorney; (2) the district court's determination that Maureen signed the deed as an amanuensis was supported by clear and convincing evidence; (3) the facts as found by the district court rebutted the presumption of invalidity of the deed under the clear and convincing evidence standard; and (4) Appellant failed to present even a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that Roxie lacked the capacity to make knowing and understanding conveyance. View "In re Estate of Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that his transfer was retaliatory, holding that the common-law tort of retaliation may be premised on an employer's action short of dismissal or demotion. Plaintiff, a Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) trooper, alleged that the KHP retaliated by requiring him to move across the state to keep his job after the Kansas Civil Service Board ordered the agency to reinstate him to work. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, although the lower courts disagreed as to inquiries at issue on this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case, holding (1) common-law retaliation may be premised on the involuntary job relocation alleged in this case; (2) sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim; but (3) there were genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. View "Hill v. State" on Justia Law