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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries - July 11, 2003

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.

Appeal No. 90,404: Larry Wilson and the Democratic Party v. Kathleen Sebelius, Governor, et al.

The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that under Kansas statutes the appointment of successors to elected officials who have resigned must be of the same party as they were at the time of their last election to the office, not at the time of their resignation.

The Court's decision directs the governor to appoint Democrat Larry Wilson as Shawnee County treasurer to succeed Rita Cline, who was last elected as a Democrat but switched to a Republican before resigning last March.

Justice Donald L. Allegrucci, writing for the court, said "public policy comports with common sense and logic, i.e., that the will of the electorate at the preceding election controls which party fills the vacancy. Here absent the relatively rare change in party affiliation, that would have occurred. It seems reasonable and logical to conclude that the legislature did not intend that the outcome be different simply because the individual officeholder changed party affiliation while in office," he wrote.

"We construe the statutory phrase 'of the party' ... to mean the political party to which the officeholder belonged at the time of the preceding election for that office. In so doing, the mandate of the preceding election is protected and continued until the next general election. Such construction is consistent with the election process," Justice Allegrucci wrote.

Among other decisions filed today were:

Appeal No. 86,204: State v. Ditges

The court affirms the defendant's Sedgwick County conviction of second-degree murder and his sentence of life imprisonment, which arose from the March 1999 stabbing death of Janzen Nguyen, Ditges' landlord.

Appeal No. 88,327: State v. Patrick Hobbs

The court, in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Donald Allegrucci, affirms the defendant's Wyandotte County convictions of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery, and leaving the scene of an injury accident, which arose from a multi-car accident following a concert at the Sandstone Amphitheater in Bonner Springs.

Appeal No. 88,159: State v. Curtis Lee Coleman Jr.

The court affirms a Wyandotte County decision re-sentencing to the hard 40 prison sentence based on his convictions of first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault on bystanders.

Docket No. 90,062: In Re: James E. Rumsey

The court suspends the law license of a Lawrence attorney for one year based upon 14 violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct arising from his representation of two clients in unrelated cases.

Being held over for decision later are:

#88,980: Duarte v. DeBruce Grain
#86,429: Dieker v. Case Corp.
#86,736: Ferguson v. State
#87,975: State v. Vandervort
#88,077: Dawson v. Prager
#88,286: Purvis v. Williams
#89,077: In re T.S.
#88,646: State v. Marion Co. Landfill
#89,494: In re Colorado Int. Gas
#89,578: In re ANR Pipeline
#86,829: State v. Kunellis
#86,895: State v. Bryant
#87,033: State v. Rogers
#87,393: State v. Reliance Surety
#88,124: Maunz v. Perales
#88,991: ARY Jewelers v. Krigel
#89,075: BCBS v. Sebelius
#89,268: State v. Sanchez-Cazares
#89,543: ARY Jewelers v. Krigel
#90,081: In re Wright
#88,582: Burcham v. Unison
#89,023: Canaan v. Bartee
#89,476: Owen Lumber v. Chartrand
#87,904: State v. Kessler
#88,046: State v. Martinez
#88,366: Marshall v. KaMMCO
#88,434: Rose v. Via Christi
#88,827: Goodman v. Wesley Med. Center
#88,867: State v. Long
#89,579: Smith v. Yell Bell Taxi