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News Releases Archive
Kansas Judicial Branch - News Releases for 1997

10/97 - 9/19/97 - 9/12/97 - 7/24/97 - 7/9/97 - 6/27/97

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For more information,
contact Ron Keefover
Education Information Officer

October 1997

Research Contest Heads-Up

The state's two law schools, The University of Kansas and Washburn University, are sponsoring a Research Paper Contest for high school, college and law school students.

The contest theme is "Ethics and the Law." Each of us as responsible citizens in a society governed by the rule of law has a duty to see to it that our judicial system pursues justice for all in an ethical and unbiased way. What can we do to further improve the ethical standards of our judicial system?

Winners in each of the three divisions in the contest will receive a $250 stipend and a certificate that is to be awarded during a two-day symposium on ethics, which will be conducted in Topeka next April.

The competition will be judged in two tiers. A legal fraternity from each law school will narrow the field of entrants in the high school and college competition to five. A panel of law professors consisting of faculty from each law school will narrow the law school division to five. The five finalists in each division will be judged by a panel of three judges each, including three district court judges, three Court of Appeals judges, and three Supreme Court justices. Announcements and mailings for the contest will be made as soon as the appropriate flyers are printed. Complete details will be mailed to each subscriber of LawWise. The entry deadline will be February 2, 1998. The rules closely follow those of the National History Day competition.

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For more information,
contact Ron Keefover
Education Information Officer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 1997

The Supreme Court today announced the appointment of Stanton A. Hazlett as state disciplinary administrator, the official in charge of investigations relating to possible ethical violations by Kansas attorneys.

Hazlett, 46, Lawrence, has been acting disciplinary administrator since April when Mark Anderson, his predecessor, died in Wichita. He has been a deputy disciplinary administrator and chief deputy disciplinary administrator in the office since 1986.

The office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting attorney violations of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the attorney code of ethics. All costs incurred in the office and by its volunteer Board for the Discipline of Attorneys are paid by Kansas attorneys when they register annually with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, with no tax money involved.

Last year, the office handled more than 960 citizen complaints of attorney malfeasance; however, only 75 were determined following investigation to warrant formal proceedings. The Kansas Supreme Court has the ultimate jurisdiction to discipline attorneys for the most serious infractions of the code of ethics.

Prior to joining the Office of Disciplinary Administrator, Hazlett had been engaged in private law practice since his graduation from the Washburn law school in 1977. During that period, he served as a part-time assistant district attorney in Douglas County and maintained a general law practice.

Hazlett received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in 1974, and has received post-graduate education in trial advocacy from the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

He is a member of the Douglas County Bar Association and the National Organization of Bar Counsel. He also is a member of the Judge Hugh Means American Inn of Court and has served as judge for various law school competitions, including moot court and client counseling. He is a contributing author for the Kansas Ethics Handbook.

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For more information,
contact Ron Keefover
Education-Information Officer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:September 12, 1997

Chief Justice Kay McFarland today announced the formation of a commission that will undertake the first "stem to stern" study of the Kansas court system since 1974, when several major court reforms were initiated, including court unification, the re-establishment of the Court of Appeals, and changes in the way district court judges and clerks of the district court are selected.

Called the Kansas Justice Initiative, the current study will be undertaken by a bipartisan 46-member Kansas Justice Commission, whose members are being appointed in equal numbers by the governor, Supreme Court, and the legislature through the leadership of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. The commission is to conduct its organizational meeting September 29th in Topeka.

Chief Justice McFarland said today's announcement of the Justice Initiative followed nearly a year of discussions between the members of the Supreme Court and the leaders of the Kansas Bar Association.

"Based upon the experience of several other states that have undertaken a similar initiative, we believe this study will be of great value in analyzing the needs and problems of our court system," she said.

"We have a broad-based commission from diverse geographical areas and backgrounds. This group will take a long, hard look at the courts and conduct a series of regional public meetings for recording the concerns of our citizens about the court system," Chief Justice McFarland said.

Co-chairing the commission are former Gov. Robert F. Bennett and Wichita businesswoman Jill Docking. Assisting them are the deans of the state's two law schools, who are serving as co-reporters for the commission. They are Dean Michael Hoeflich, of the University of Kansas law school, and Dean James Concannon, of the Washburn University law school.

Gov. Bennett said the commission's work will be encompassing. "We plan to look into virtually every aspect of the courts with an eye toward fixing what may be broken and enhancing that which may be working," he said.

Among topics that will be addressed are enhancing the access of the public to the courts; increasing the efficiency of the court system, improving the organization and funding of the courts appellate courts, as well as other concepts that may be generated by the series of regional meetings, which are to be scheduled in November.

The location of the regional meetings will be decided at the organizational meeting, but they are to be conducted in each of the four congressional districts. All citizens will have an opportunity to suggest improvements in court operations at these meetings, the chief justice said.

Current commission members and their appointing authority include:
Governor Bill Graves, Bruce Buchanan, Vice President for Newspapers,Harris News Inc., Hutchinson; Jeff Burkhead, Publisher, Southwest Daily Times, Liberal; J. Sanford Bushman, CPA, Bushman & Associates, CPAs P.A., Leavenworth; Jane A. Devore, Program Director, Leadership Coffeyville,Coffeyville; Michael C. Helbert, Attorney, Helbert-Bell, Chtd., Emporia; Jerry G. Larson, Attorney, Smith, Burnett & Larson, Larned; David McElreath, Chair and Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Washburn University, Topeka; Robert C. Muirhead, Scott City;
W. Ron Olin, Police Chief, Lawrence Police Department, Lawrence;
Juanita L. Sanchez, Psychotherapist, Dodge City; Marilyn Scafe, Chair, Kansas Parole Board, Topeka; Kathleen Sloan, District Court Trustee, Olathe; Delmar A. White, Pastor, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Topeka.

Supreme Court appointments--
Hon. Barbara Ballard, Kansas Representative, Lawrence;
Arden Bradshaw, Attorney, Bradshaw, Johnson & Hund, Wichita;
John Brand, Jr., Attorney, Stevens, Brand, Golden, Winter & Skepnek, Lawrence;
R. A. Edwards, President, First National Bank of Hutchinson, Hutchinson;
Gloria Flentje, Attorney, Foulston & Siefkin, L.L.P.,Wichita;
Hon. Stephen D. Hill, Administrative Judge, Miami County, Paola;
John Jurcyk, Attorney, McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P. A., Kansas City;
Hon. Steven Leben, District Judge, Johnson County, Olathe;
Robert Schmidt, President, Eagle Communications, Inc., Hays;
Stan Stauffer, Stauffer Publications, Topeka;
Hon. Nelson Toburen, District Judge, Crawford County, Pittsburg;
Nick Tomasic, District Attorney, Kansas City;
David Waxse, Attorney, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Overland Park.

Senate Judiciary Committee appointees by Sen. Tim Emert, chair, include:Judy Bengtson, Junction City; Emerson Lynn, Jr., Editor and Publisher, The Iola Register, Iola; Jeffrey Russell, Topeka, and himself.
Minority appointments for the Senate Judiciary Committee that were made by Hon. Greta Goodwin, Winfield, include herself, John A. Potucek, Wellington; and Hon. Michael J. Smith, Winfield
House Judiciary Committee appointees include those by chair Timothy Carmody: Bob Boyd, Hill City; and Robert "Andy" Hoffman, Olathe
Minority leader appointees by Rep. Jim Garner, Coffeyville, include Philip J. Bernhart, Coffeyville; John Solbach, Lawrence; and himself

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For more information,
contact Ron Keefover,
Education-Information Officer


Ordinarily, a wedding engagement ring is not for keeps if the marriage is called off, the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision released today.

The court voted 5-2 that the ring should be returned under ordinary circumstances, but three members of the majority said there may be "extremely gross and rare situations" where fault might be appropriately considered in deciding who should get the ring.

The decision was reached in a lawsuit brought by Jerod Heiman, Wichita, who is seeking the return of an engagement ring he purchased for $9,000 in August 1994 for Heather L. Parrish, also of Wichita. The engagement was terminated by Heiman in October 1995. The Sedgwick County District Court ruled in his favor and held that he is entitled to return of the ring plus costs.

The trial court found as a matter of law that since the engagement ring was given in contemplation of marriage, the marriage itself is a condition precedent to the ultimate ownership of the ring. "Since the parties did not perform the condition of marriage, the purchaser is entitled to return of the ring," Wichita's Judge Timothy G. Lahey ruled. He also held that the issue of who ended the engagement is not determinative of the ownership of the ring. Chief Justice Kay McFarland, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, said unless some "contrary intent has been expressed, an engagement ring is, by its very nature, a conditional gift given in contemplation of marriage." But she wrote that there may be "extremely gross and rare situations" in which return of the ring may be subject to a determination of who was at fault in breaking the engagement.

The chief justice was joined in the majority opinion by Justices Robert E. Davis and Edward Larson. Justices Donald L. Allegrucci and Fred N. Six concurred in the result, but would not recognize an exception for "extremely gross and rare situations."

In rejecting the contention that who was at fault in terminating the engagement should be considered, Chief Justice McFarland asked what fault is or what constitutes the unjustifiable calling off of an engagement.

By way of illustration, should courts be asked to determine which of the following grounds for breaking an engagement is fault or justified?
* The parties have nothing in common;
* One party cannot stand prospective in-laws;
* a minor child of one of the parties is hostile to and will not accept the other party;
* an adult child of one of the parties will not accept the other party;
* the parties' pets do not get along;
* a party was too hasty in proposing or accepting the proposal;
* the engagement was a rebound situation which is now regretted;
* one party has untidy habits that irritate the other;
* or the parties have religious differences.

"The list could be endless," Chief Justice McFarland said in her opinion.

A dissent written by Judge Christel E. Marquardt, of the Court of Appeals, was joined by Justice Tyler C. Lockett. Judge Marquardt sat with the Supreme Court to hear the appeal in the place of Justice Bob Abbott, who recused because a relative is an attorney in one of the law firms involved in the appeal.

The dissenters would have reversed the trial court and rejected the majority's conclusion that the gift was conditional. "Regardless, Heather is entitled to keep the engagement ring whether this case is analyzed on the principles of gift law, contract law, or equity," Judge Marquardt wrote in her dissent.

"Most of the other jurisdictions cited by the majority that have dealt with rings and broken engagements hold that if the engagement is unjustifiably broken by the donor, the donor is not entitled to the return of the ring or other gifts," she wrote in the dissent.

State of Kansas
Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507 (785) 296-2256

For more information, contact
Ron Keefover
Education-Information Officer


A hearing panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals will meet in the former Supreme Court courtroom in the State Capitol next Tuesday to hear oral arguments in nine cases on appeal and draw attention to what court officials describe as a backlog at near crisis proportions.

Chief Judge J. Patrick Brazil, of the Court of Appeals, said the session was scheduled in the room as a reminder of the historical importance of the courtroom and to draw attention to the burgeoning caseload confronting the intermediate appellate court.

"It is now to the point that once briefs have been submitted and the case is ready for oral arguments, there is a built-in eight to ten-month delay in getting the matter on a docket," Chief Judge Brazil said. "This situation is not what was intended when the Legislature re-established the Court of Appeals in 1977 and it certainly isn't the kind of service that the court would like to provide to litigants and the public." Chief Judge Brazil said hope in reducing the backlog surfaced during the first six months of this year when filings in the court were down about 200 appeals. "That fact, together with the continuing assistance we are receiving from trial court judges and those retired judges participating in the senior judge program, offer some hope of turning the problem around. However, it does not appear there is a quick fix," he said.

The Legislature has resolved that the former Supreme Court Courtroom be preserved as a historic symbol of the judicial branch of government. "It is pretty much the same as when it was last used as an appellate court in 1978," he said.

The 10-member Court of Appeals sits in hearing panels of three at locations throughout the state to bring the court to the litigants, instead of requiring attorneys to travel great distances to Topeka. Joining Chief Judge Brazil for next Tuesday's hearings will be Judges Gary W. Rulon and Robert L. Gernon. The session begins at 9:30 a.m. and the public is welcome at any of the hearings.

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

June 27, 1997

TO: Statehouse Media
FROM: Ron Keefover
RE: Appeal No. 76,524: Kansas Public Employees Retirement System v. Reimer & Koger Associates Inc. et al.

The Supreme Court today ruled that the recovery of millions of dollars worth of lost investments by the state's public employee retirement system is not barred by a statute of limitations.

The Court, in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Edward Larson, held that since KPERS's investment activity is a governmental and not a proprietary function, no statute of limitations applies. The court also ruled that if one applied, a law establishing a 10-year statute of limitations on any claims brought by KPERS revived any time-barred claims.

The rulings arose from 10 combined appeals from five of numerous cases filed by KPERS against a number of individuals, accounting firms, and law firms to recover amounts lost in KPERS's direct placement investment programs. The five cases include: * KPERS v. Reimer & Koger Associates Inc. in which KPERS sued its investment advisor, Reimer & Koger, for about $14.2 million in losses from investments made in Tallgrass Technologies Corporation. *KPERS v. Russell et al. in which KPERS sued to recover about $7.85 million from investments made in Emblem graphics Systems and Emblem Tape & Label Corporation. *KPERS v. Ward et al. in which KPERS sued to recover about $4.425 million invested in Affinity Systems Inc. *KPERS v. Byrd et al. in which KPERS sought to recover about $2.5 million for investments made in the Hydrogen Energy Corporation. *And KPERS v. Cohen, Brame & Smith et al. in which KPERS sued for investment losses of $6.38 million in Sharoff Food Services Inc.

Justice Larson wrote that Shawnee County's Judge Franklin R. Theis was correct in his determination that the statute especially enacted for the KPERS litigation is constitutional and may be applied retroactively.

Concerning the 10-year-statute of limitations, Justice Larson wrote that what the "1992 Kansas Legislature did was grant to all parties that may be sued by KPERS for claims arising from a governmental function a 10-year-period of limitations where none had previously existed. As such, the provision does not violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses of either the United States or Kansas Constitutions. The provision did not violate any existing rights because none in fact existed, and it certainly forms no basis for a discrimination claim," Justice Larson wrote.

"All of the arguments made by the defendants as to the validity of these provisions are premised on our holding KPERS's actions to be proprietary. Because we declined to do so, they are left without any arguments which require our considerations..." he said in the opinion.