Kansas Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments next week in Ottawa

OTTAWA, Kan. – A three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Nov. 15 and 16, 2016, in the historic Franklin County Courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa.

Judges Melissa Standridge, Karen Arnold-Burger, and David Bruns will hear oral arguments in seven cases at dockets that convene at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The three-judge panel will also decide 14 cases without argument on Wednesday, Nov. 16, based on the parties’ written submissions.

After each docket session, the judges will be available to answer questions from the public about the court and court procedures.

Standridge, the presiding judge for the panel, said that the Court of Appeals regularly hears cases throughout the state.

“Most months, panels of Court of Appeals judges will hear cases in Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City,” Standridge said. “Intermittently, Court of Appeals panels will visit other parts of the state, places like Ottawa, to make our court more accessible to the people of Kansas.”

Standridge added that conducting dockets in different parts of the state do more than make the court accessible to more Kansans. Hearing cases around the state also saves money for the parties who would otherwise have to drive to Topeka.

Oral arguments are always open to the public, but Court of Appeals judges also look for opportunities to educate communities about the role of courts in our democratic form of government.

Attorneys for each side will have an opportunity to present arguments to the judges, and the judges will have a chance to ask questions. The court will then take each case under consideration and will issue a written decision at a later date, usually within 60 days.

The appeals to be heard in Ottawa arose in Franklin, Johnson, and Wyandotte counties. In addition to the Court of Appeals panel hearing cases in Ottawa, other Court of Appeals panels will hear cases in Great Bend, Topeka, and Wichita. All hearings are open to the public.

There are 14 judges on the Court of Appeals, and the judges sit in three-judge panels to decide cases. In fiscal year 2015, the Court of Appeals resolved appeals in 1,978 cases, including 1,340 in which the court issued a formal written opinion.

The seven cases to be heard in Ottawa are summarized as follows:

9 a.m. Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Appeal No. 115,674: Alyssa M. Clayton v. University of Kansas Hospital Authority

Workers compensation: Clayton experienced a knee injury while at work and the workers’ compensation claim was settled by the parties. As part of the settlement, Clayton’s claim for future medical care and treatment remained open. Over two years later, Clayton’s employer filed an application for termination of future medical benefits with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. At the hearing, the administrative law judge agreed with Clayton and found that she was not required to secure new and/or additional medical evidence following the date of settlement to rebut the presumption that no further medical care was needed. Clayton was also awarded attorney’s fees. The employer appealed the administrative law judge’s order to the Kansas Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, and the Board upheld the administrative law judge’s order. The employer now appeals the Board’s order to the Kansas Court of Appeals. Issues on appeal are whether the Board erred in finding that: 1) a claimant is not required to offer new or contemporary medical evidence to support a continuing need for future medical benefits, and 2) the administrative law judge was allowed to award Clayton attorney’s fees.

9:30 a.m.

Appeal No. 113,622: State of Kansas v. Kenneth Murray

Johnson County: A store employee observed Murray pushing a shopping cart of merchandise towards the store’s exit. The employee did not believe that Murray had purchased the items in the cart so the employee asked Murray to return to the store. Murray then approached the customer service desk and attempted to return a kitchen faucet. After the manager informed Murray that he could not return the faucet without a receipt, Murray left the store with the faucet. Murray was charged and convicted of felony theft. At a sentencing hearing, the prosecutor alleged that an upward durational sentencing departure was warranted. After hearing evidence, the jury agreed and the district court sentenced Murray to 26 months in prison, with a post release supervision term of 12 months. Issues on appeal are whether the district court: 1) erred by admitting the store’s sales report into evidence, 2) committed clear error by not instructing the jury on criminal deprivation of property as a lesser included offense to theft, 3) erred in sentencing Murray, and 4) erred in classifying Murray’s prior robbery conviction as a person felony. The Court will also consider whether cumulative error deprived Murray of his right to a fair trial.

10 a.m.

Appeal No. 115,324: State of Kansas v. Ronald W. James

Wyandotte County: James was convicted of raping a 5-year old female relative. James’ crime is subject to Jessica’s Law. The district court sentenced James to serve a 25-year sentence with lifetime post release supervision. James appealed, arguing that his sentence was illegal because it was ambiguous. The Court of Appeals remanded the case, holding that “the district court likely meant to impose the presumptive sentence of imprisonment for life with a mandatory minimum term of not less than 25 years” but “this was not explicitly stated on the record.” The Court of Appeals also said that it could not tell whether the district court actually ruled on a motion for departure that had been filed by James. On remand, the district court again considered James’ motion for departure and denied it. James now appeals the denial of his motion for departure. Issues on appeal are whether the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for departure by: 1) weighing aggravating circumstances against mitigating circumstances in violation of law, 2) relying on facts not in evidence, and 3) failing to find that substantial and compelling reasons supported departure.

1:30 p.m.

Appeal No. 114,986: In the Matter of the Marriage of Addis Kidane and Helen Araya

Johnson County: Kidane came to the United States from Ethiopia with the intent to marry his ex-girlfriend. When Kidane arrived in the United States, however, he found that his ex-girlfriend had married someone else. Soon thereafter, Kidane met Araya and they were married. Later, Araya filed a petition in district court requesting an annulment of the marriage. Araya alleged that after they were married, Kidane told her that he did not need her anymore because he had his green card. Although Kidane maintained that he married Araya for love, Kidane filed a petition for divorce the day after Araya filed the petition for annulment. After finding that Kidane and Araya entered into a marriage for the purposes of immigration fraud, the district court granted Araya’s request for an annulment. Issues on appeal are whether the district court’s finding of fraud was supported by substantial competent evidence and whether annulment, an equitable remedy, is improper where the requesting party had unclean hands.

2 p.m.

Appeal No. 114,404: Heartland Presbytery v. The Presbyterian Church of Stanley, Inc., et al.

Johnson County: Heartland Presbytery, a district Presbyterian entity, filed a lawsuit against the Presbyterian Church of Stanley, Inc., an individual Presbyterian church, and several of its’ members, officers, directors and/or trustees in their official capacities. Heartland Presbytery alleged a majority of the Stanley church’s members, officers, directors, and trustees voted to leave Heartland Presbytery and join a different presbytery district, which was a prohibited act given that the Stanley church held its property in trust for Heartland Presbytery or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The district court ultimately determined that neither Heartland Presbytery nor the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had a trust in the Stanley church’s property. But because the Stanley church was in a schism, the district court determined that the property should be awarded to the faction of the church that wanted to stay with Heartland Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Stanley church officers/directors that voted to leave appealed, and Heartland Presbytery cross-appealed. The first issue presented on appeal is whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the individuals who lost in the district court acquiesced to the prior judgment by forming another church. If there is jurisdiction, the Court must decide whether the district court erred in awarding the Stanley church’s property to the individuals wanting to stay with Heartland Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Issue on cross-appeal is whether the district court erred in finding that the Stanley church, as an entity, did not hold its property in trust for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

2:45 p.m.

Appeal No. 115,360: Jesseca Patterson v. Kayce Cloud

Johnson County: Patterson and Cloud were involved in a car accident. Patterson filed a negligence claim against Cloud, alleging permanent and painful injuries. Cloud admitted the accident was solely and proximately caused by her negligence, but denied that Patterson had suffered any injuries as a result. Without receiving evidence and based solely on the attorneys’ arguments at a pretrial hearing, the district court entered judgment as a matter of law against Patterson when her attorney stated that she would not offer expert medical testimony on the issue of causation at trial. Patterson appealed the district court’s ruling to the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the district court, holding that it had erred in directing a verdict in favor of Cloud. The case was remanded to the district court and proceeded to jury trial. Before opening statements, Cloud moved for a directed verdict on grounds that Patterson was not going to present any medical expert testimony as to the reasonableness of her medical treatment and the causation between such treatment and the accident. The district court granted the motion, ruling that Patterson’s medical records and bills would be inadmissible in the absence of expert testimony linking the treatment to the accident. Because Patterson could not prove that she suffered damages as a result of the accident, the district court entered a directed verdict in favor of Cloud. Issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in granting a directed verdict in favor of Cloud.

3:15 p.m.

Appeal No. 114,753: State of Kansas v. Victor F. Brosseit

Franklin County: Wellsville Police received a report of a pickup that was driving erratically. An officer located the vehicle and pulled the driver over for failure to maintain one lane. Brosseit was identified as the driver. The officer learned that Brosseit’s license was revoked. The officer also noticed a strong odor of alcohol, Brosseit’s watery and bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Brosseit refused to exit his vehicle for a standardized field sobriety test. Brosseit also refused a preliminary breath test. Officers arrested Brosseit and searched his vehicle. They found an open can of beer, a plastic mug with liquid, and an open bottle of whiskey. At the police station, Brosseit refused to take a breath test so a search warrant was obtained to take a blood sample. The blood test later showed a blood alcohol content of .10. A jury convicted Brosseit of driving under the influence, driving while his license was revoked, transporting an open container, and refusing a preliminary breath test. The district court sentenced Brosseit to 25 months in jail and a fine. Issues on appeal are whether the district court: 1) erred in denying Brosseit’s motion to suppress, 2) erred in allowing the testimony of the person who obtained Brosseit’s blood, and 3) abused its discretion in sentencing Brosseit to consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences.

Information thanks to the Kansas Supreme Court, Office of Judicial Administration.

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