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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Cypress Media Inc. d/b/a The Kansas City Star, v. City of Overland Park, Docket 82,353
January 28, 2000

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.


RE: Appeal No. 82,353: Cypress Media Inc. d/b/a The Kansas City Star, v. City of Overland Park

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Edward Larson, today ruled in a case of first impression that attorney billing statements are not per se exempt from production under the attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act.

Today's decision arose from a lawsuit The Kansas City Star filed seeking a determination that its reporter is entitled to see copies of billing statements from outside attorneys who performed legal services for the for the City of Overland Park during 1996.

"We affirm the trial court's ruling that all narrative statements in attorney fee statements are not per se privileged is correct," Justice Larson wrote for the court. "Rather, parties claiming the privilege will have to show its application to particular narrative statements in billing records."

He said the burden the court's decision is placing on trial judges and litigants to show that the statements are privileged is no different than "they currently handle in huge volume in the discovery process."

The court further held that Johnson County District Judge William O. Isenhour Jr.'s decision to require the city to provide unredacted copies of all of its 1996 attorney fee billing statements of outside counsel was not an abuse of discretion after he determined that the city did not comply with his order to explain why it contended various entries on the billing records are privileged.

"We conclude, as we began, this is a KORA case, and we apply the principles that the Act requires. After finding the privilege log was clearly insufficient, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the city to produce unredacted copies of all of its 1996 attorney fee billing statements of outside counsel," Justice Larson wrote.

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