Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Kansas Corporation Commission approving a non-unanimous settlement agreement including certain rate design changes at issue in this case, holding that the new rate design violates Kansas law. In 2018, two utilities (Utilities) applied to the Commission for a rate increase. The application included a proposed rate increase of $52.6 million per year and changes in the residential rate design. The new rate structure was applicable only to residential distributed generation (DG) customers. Several parties intervened. Most of the parties reached a settlement agreement, but two of the objecting intervenors appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the new rate design violates Kansas law because Kan. Stat. Ann. 66-117d clearly prohibits the Utilities from price discrimination against DG customers. View "In re Joint Application of Westar Energy & Kansas Gas & Electric Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Utilities Law
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In this case concerning the application of the statutory scheme permitting an employer that has provided workers compensation benefits to an injured employee to obtain both a subrogation interest in any recovery the employee receives from a third party and a credit for future benefits, the Supreme Court held that the Workers Compensation Board used the improper method for determining the subrogation lien and the future credit. In Employee's third party negligence action, the jury decided both the fault of Employer and the measure of Employee's damages from his workplace injury. The Board applied the jury's finding of fault to Employee's settlement with one of several defendants in his negligence action to compute the reduction in Employer's subrogation lien and future credit for workers compensation benefits it provided or will provide to Employee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) consistent with Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-504(b), Employer's credit for future benefits should have been determined using each annual settlement payment to Employee from one of the third-party defendants when the payment was received; and (2) the Board erred in aggregating those payments and relying on the total amount when Employee would not receive the last installment for twenty years. View "Hawkins v. Southwest Kansas Co-op Service" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal challenging sentences imposed for crimes occurring both before and after statutory amendments in 2015 to the revised Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act (KSGA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6801, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision scoring a prior 1992 Kansas involuntary manslaughter conviction as a person felony for criminal history purposes. Defendant's direct appeal concerned two 2015 thefts committed after changes to the revised KSGA. Defendant's probation revocation appeals concerned sentences imposed thefts that occurred before 2015. The Supreme Court held that, as to the direct appeal, this Court adopts the identical-or-narrower test from State v. Wetrich, 412 P.3d 984 (2018), which should also be used for Kansas crimes committed before the sentencing guidelines used the person or nonperson designations. Using the Wetrich test, the Court held that the district court correctly classified a 1992 Kansas involuntary manslaughter conviction as a person felony in the sentencings for the 2015 thefts. As to the probation revocation appeals, the Supreme Court could held that no relief was available. View "State v. Coleman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of felony murder, attempted aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, holding that there was sufficient evidence to prove intent to commit a robbery to support the convictions. On appeal, Defendant argued that there was not an adequate evidentiary basis for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to rob the victim at the time of the shooting. The Supreme Court first considered the evidence supporting an intent to rob, which was a necessary element for both the felony-murder and attempted aggravated robbery convictions, and then examined the evidence supporting the conspiracy conviction. The Supreme Court then held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support all the convictions; (2) the trial court erred in giving an aiding and abetting instruction, but the error was harmless; and (3) as to Defendant's remaining allegations of error, there was no error. View "State v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of premeditated first-degree murder, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. During trial, the court instructed the jury on premeditated first-degree murder and on the lesser included offense of second-degree murder. The jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress self-incriminating statements he made during an interrogation that took place immediately after his arrest; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's request for an instruction on voluntary manslaughter committed upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. View "State v. Parker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated interference with parental custody, holding that Defendant's post-arrest confession was voluntary and that any violation of Defendant's due process rights was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that her confession was involuntary and that its admission at trial was reversible error. Defendant also argued that the State violated her due process rights at trial by mentioning her invocation of her rights. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) substantial competent evidence supported the foundation of the district court's decision that Defendant's confession was voluntary and admissible; and (2) where the State thoroughly undermined Defendant's credibility, any fleeting mention of Defendant's invocation of her rights was harmless error. View "State v. Sesmas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for premeditated first-degree murder, arson, and interference with law enforcement but vacated Defendant's controlling hard fifty life sentence, holding that the district court erred by not considering mitigating factors before deciding not to depart from the presumptive sentence. Defendant moved for a downward departure from a hard fifty sentence, arguing that she had no criminal history. The district court stated that it would not consider the absence of Defendant's criminal history as a mitigating factor because the legislature had rejected that argument as grounds for mitigation. The State conceded that the court's statement conflicted with the statutory sentencing scheme and incorrectly stated the law. The Supreme Court vacated the sentence, holding that the error was not harmless. View "State v. Galloway" 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 robbery for robbing a Dollar General using a Taser and ordering Defendant to register as a violent offender under the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4902(e)(2), holding that Defendant was not erroneously ordered to register under KORA. On appeal, Defendant challenged the requirement that she register as a violent offender, arguing that the registration requirement was procedurally unsound and not supported by the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district judge made the necessary finding on the record under section 22-4902(e)(2); (2) the district judge had substantial competent evidence to support his finding that Defendant employed a deadly weapon in the aggravated robbery of the Dollar General; and (3) the district judge's fact-finding did not violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). View "State v. Carter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder but vacated the portion of his sentence ordering lifetime postrelease supervision, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of prosecutorial error and errors related to jury instructions but that the district court erred in ordering lifetime postrelease supervision following Defendant's indeterminate life sentence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the prosecutor did not err in his comments during closing argument; (2) the district court did not commit reversible error in failing to instruct on lesser included crimes and on voluntary intoxication; (3) Defendant's newly raised constitutional claims were without merit; but (4) the district court erred in imposing a term of postrelease supervision rather than parole. View "State v. Becker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, rape, and aggravated burglary, holding that the district court did not err in admitting prior sex crime evidence and did not commit clear error when it did not instruct the jury on intentional second-degree murder as a lesser included offense of first-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court should have sentenced him for intentional second-degree murder even though he was convicted of first degree premeditated murder under the identical offense doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's identical offense argument was unpreserved for appellate review; (2) the district court did not err when it admitted evidence of prior crimes under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-455; and (3) Defendant failed to establish that the jury would have reached a different verdict had the district court offered an instruction on intentional second-degree murder. View "State v. Gray" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law