News

News

Information from Douglas County Appraiser’s July Newsletter

The Douglas County Appraiser’s Office published the following information in the July Appraisal Newsletter:

Property values — The county’s total 2019 assessed value, including state assessed property, is $1.46 billion compared to $1.39 billion in 2018. This represents an increase of approximately 5.2 percent.

Sales - During the first six months of 2019, the Douglas County Appraiser’s Office worked:

  • 530 existing residential home sales; average price was $238,182.

  • 50 new homes sales; average price was $339,322.

  • 33 commercial sales; average price was $1.5 million.

For more info, click on the County Appraisers’ July newsletter.

Mary Shultz
Douglas County employee garden is thriving

Five years ago, the Douglas County employee garden grew as an initiative of the Court Wellness Committee and a grant it received from WorkWell Douglas County

This year, there are a dozen employees who take care of the garden: planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. They added a trellis this year, which has several varieties of green beans and cucumbers growing on it. In the spring, they planted an early spring crop of lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes and sugar snap peas. This summer, they are growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, Swiss Chard and a variety of herbs.

“I love being a part of the garden crew,” said Mary Beth Diaz, Assistant Court Trustee for District Court. “I have made connections with other people who work in the building that I would not have met otherwise. And I really enjoy sharing extra produce with co-workers.”

The garden crew consists of employees who work in the Douglas County Courthouse and Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. The garden is located on the south side of the Law Enforcement Center.

Mary Shultz
Proposed Adoption of Supreme Court Rule 356A

The Kansas Supreme Court is accepting public comment on proposed Supreme Court Rule 356A, which will incorporate the rates for district court transcripts contained in Board Rule No. 10 and address the electronic availability of transcripts. Board Rule No. 10 of the Rules Adopted by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters will be repealed.

Proposed Supreme Court Rule 356A is available on the Kansas judicial branch website at www.kscourts.org under the heading "What's New."

Comments may be submitted by email to rulenotice@kscourts.org with "Rule 356A "in the subject line until 5 p.m. Saturday, August 10, 2019.

Mary Shultz
July/August Art Display

Our current art exhibit is from 3 artists who are members of the Eudora Art Coalition. Featured artists are Debbie Burchett Carden, Steven Richardson & Haley Sellmeyer. Please enjoy this exhibit by visiting the District Attorney’s office, the Division IV/V/VI office area, Division III office area, Clerk of the District Court & Law Library.

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Mary Shultz
BIDS Notification - Advice to Assigned Counsel

From Pat Scalia:

The current proration of the hourly rate to $75 per hour expires at midnight, June 30, 2019. 

For attorney services performed on and after July 1, 2019, the statutory rate of $80 per hour is in place. 

The claim form listing services performed on and after July 1, 2019 at $80 per hour is on the BIDS web.

The regulations to reflect the rate change will be in place as soon as possible. 

Mary Shultz
Updates to Kansas child support guidelines open for public comment

Every 4 years, an advisory committee reviews Kansas' child support guidelines to
ensure that the roughly $35 million mothers and fathers pay in support each month is equitable
for the parents and appropriate for the day-to-day essential needs of the children they support.

Child support pays for housing, clothing, transportation, recreation, health care, child care, and
other expenses that would have been shared by the parents had the family remained intact.

Federal law requires states to review their child support guidelines every four years, and Kansas
has reviewed and revised its guidelines nine times since they were initially established in 1989.

Reviews are by a 13-member advisory committee that has included parents who either pay or
receive child support, tax professionals with expertise in child support, attorneys, and judges. An
economist is enlisted to help with the review.

The committee spent nearly a year reviewing the guidelines and making proposed updates, and
those updates are now open for public review and comment.

The proposed guidelines, a copy of the economist's report, and other relevant documents are
available on the Kansas judicial branch website at www.kscourts.org under the heading What's
New.

Comment can be made through an online survey accessible from the Kansas judicial branch
website at www.kscourts.org under the heading What's New. Comment will be accepted until 5
p.m. Saturday, August 10.

After receiving public comment, the Kansas Supreme Court will decide whether to adopt
changes to the guidelines as proposed by the advisory committee.

Mary Shultz
Part-Time Assistant District Court Trustee Job Opening

Position and Grade: PART-TIME Assistant District Court Trustee (20 hrs/wk)

Grade 44: $30,221 annually with possible step increases at 6 months and 12 months; includes insurance and benefits.

This position is a county funded position but subject to State of Kansas Judicial Branch Personnel Rules.

Job Duties: Day to day administration of contract with the Office of Judicial Administration to collect court debt and restitution assessed in Douglas County criminal cases, supervise experienced criminal staff of three, and work closely with other district court offices.

Desired Education and Experience: Must be an attorney in good standing licensed to practice law in Kansas, a resident of Douglas County, have two years of practice experience, and possess basic knowledge of criminal law and collection law. Previous supervisory experience preferred. Candidate should possess excellent interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Email cover letter and resume to: Katy Nitcher

District Court Trustee

knitcher@douglascountyks.org

Application deadline: Position open until filled

Douglas County District Court is an EEO employer.

Mary Shultz
eFiling Rejections—The Lambert Decision

Lambert v. Peterson, et al (No. 117,344) decided by the Kansas Supreme Court on April 19, 2019 is worth careful review by every efiling lawyer. Lambert highlights the dangers to litigants in an electronic filing system that discounts the actual pleadings filed in favor of immaterial metadata entered by filers to describe the pleading within eFlex.

Lambert’s lawyer filed a medical malpractice petition on the last day of the statute of limitations. The following day, the clerk of the district court worked the filing queue and rejected the petition because the clerk did not accept how the data describing the petition (metadata) within eFlex was entered. The lawyer refiled the petition, changing the metadata, but that resulted in the petition being file-stamped one day past the statute of limitations. Lambert ultimately lost her claim to a motion to dismiss because of that late file stamp.

Those facts admit Lambert’s lawyer to a large society of Kansas filers who routinely see legally-adequate pleadings rejected due to metadata issues. Under paper filing, Lambert’s lawyer would have walked the petition to the courthouse for a file-stamped petition at the window. The clerks trained to enter metadata about the case would enter it.

Rule 23(c)

When efiling rolled out, it shifted that data entry task from clerks to lawyers. Now, a filing lawyer must know the law on behalf of the client and be able to ferret out the data entry policies of every county—unwritten policies that differ from court to court and which are usually discoverable only through trial and error. (Clerks may correct data entry issues but OJA recommendations and local rules tend toward rejection.)

As I write this, the Kansas Supreme Court is accepting comment on proposed rules which include an effort to address the Lambert issue. Proposed Rule 23(c)(1) narrows clerk rejection reasons to the following:

  1. the document is illegible or in a format that prevents it from being opened;

  2. the document does not leave a margin sufficient to affix a file stamp…;

  3. the document does not have the correct county designation, case number, or case caption; and

  4. the applicable fee has not been paid or there is no poverty affidavit submitted with the document or already on file in the case.

The change redirects clerk attention toward the document itself and away from the metadata in eFlex. Had this rule or focus been in place upon roll out, the Lambert rejection may not have occurred.

Proposed Rule 23(c)(2) also speeds up the review process in the clerks’ offices. Clerks must process a document no more than four business hours after filing. Because Lambert’s petition was submitted at 11:56 AM, the lawyer would have had the rejection by 3:56 PM the same day leaving time to refile within the statute of limitations. A promise of efiling was that the clerk window would always be open to receive filings. However, the rejection process, and the seeming missing audit trail for those rejections, places a caveat on that promise.

Proposed Rule 23 would likely eliminate most of the scenarios in which a Lambert set of facts could bite a litigant. It does not eliminate the possibility, however. First, there are no remedies for non-compliance within the Rule; it serves as a best practices aspiration but does not provide filers any enforcement. Second, there is still room for a clerk rejection unrelated to the document. For example, a dispute over whether a party is fee exempt could still generate a clerk rejection.

Proof of Filing

Because a clerk rejection can adversely impact a party’s rights under statute, the counsel in Lambert is important. The district court and Kansas Supreme Court have not taken judicial notice of the system they maintain to see the content of the original, timely filing. In some cases, lawyers have been told that the courts do not have access to see the same information we see on filing. It is also possible that there simply are no audit records or other digital trail left by documents that cannot survive a clerk rejection. Either way, the state of the court’s efiling system with respect to a pleading is, by nature, outside the pleadings—and that is significant.

The Kansas Supreme Court notes, “Certainly, a party responding to a motion to dismiss can go outside the pleadings to raise facts supporting the party’s response to the motion. But to do so, the party must follow prescribed procedures. Specifically, ‘the motion must be treated as one of summary judgment under K.S.A. 60-256.’” It continued, “Instead, Lambert (or any other party responding to a motion to dismiss) must, ‘by affidavits or by declarations pursuant to K.S.A. 53-601…or as otherwise provided in this section, set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”

If you have a time-sensitive document, start the filing process with eyes wide open toward how to prove by “affidavit, declaration, or testimony by a competent affiant, declarant, or witness based on personal knowledge setting forth facts that would be admissible into evidence” that the document was timely filed. Think about the checklists and business records your own staff can create which would prove filing. Pay attention to which clerks or other OJA staff might need to be subpoenaed to testify. The burden will be on you to prove you showed up at the clerk’s virtual window on time.

Originally published in the June 2019 Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.

Read Lambert decision HERE


Mary Shultz
Douglas County offering new online resource for wellness, mental health

Douglas County and 8 community agencies now offer residents a new online resource for wellness and mental health. Livongo for Behavioral Health by myStrength, an innovative leader in digital behavioral health care, provides digital self-care resources 24/7, including treatment-inspired exercises, mindfulness meditations and self-care activities.

myStrength’s online tools promote emotional wellness, assist new and expectant parents, and help manage depression, anxiety, stress, substance use disorders, chronic pain and insomnia. The platform empowers individuals with personalized pathways incorporating multiple programs to help manage and overcome comorbid challenges.

Livongo for Behavioral Health by myStrength is confidential and personalized to each user and allows individuals to set goals and track their changes over time. The platform can be accessed from any computer or mobile device and is for individuals ages 13 and older.

“We are so excited to offer free and unlimited access to myStrength for Douglas County residents,” said Bob Tryanski, Director of Behavioral Health Projects for Douglas County. “MyStrength supports the whole person; mind, body and spirit. It builds healthy habits for sustained mental health and overall well-being. Most of all it offers friends, family, and community members the freedom to pursue personal wellness in a self-directed way.”

DCCCA, a Lawrence-based agency that provides social and community services statewide and in parts of Oklahoma, began offering myStrength to clients, staff, foster parents and community members in 2014. Between November 2014 and April 2019, 3,241 individuals signed up to use myStrength. As of March 2019, 71% of users reported clinical depression improvement and 48% reported clinical anxiety improvement.

The myStrength platform evidences significant improvement in clinical outcomes that are comparable to standard care of treatment. These include 70% of clinical improvement happening within the first 14 days of engagement and 74% of individuals experiencing improvement in depression scores.

The Douglas County Behavioral Health Leadership Coalition identified myStrength as an evidence-based prevention strategy that they wanted to offer in Douglas County, especially after hearing about DCCCA’s success.

Favorable outcomes at DCCCA can be attributed to three factors:

  • DCCCA’s leadership support of myStrength and full adoption into the clinical program strategy,

  • staff usage as an integral component of their treatment flows,

  • myStrength’s highly-personalized experience allows clients to engage in activities most relevant to their immediate needs at any time of day.

Douglas County and eight agencies are now following DCCCA’s lead. The following agencies now offer myStrength to their clients, staff and communities: LMH HealthLawrence-Douglas County Health DepartmentHeartland Community Health CenterBert Nash Community Mental Health CenterHeartland Regional Alcohol & Drug Assessment CenterHeadquarters Counseling Center, Lawrence Community ShelterLawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority and Douglas County.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department received a Data-Driven Prevention Initiative grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to help promote myStrength in the community.

Sonia Jordan, Director of Informatics at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said due to stigma surrounding behavioral health issues, people can often be afraid to seek initial health.

“The availability of something like myStrength and the ability for people to download it to use on their phones means they don’t have to worry about that — at least for that initial step of trying to manage some of their mental health needs,” Jordan said. “They don’t have to get in their car and drive somewhere. They don’t have to have their car parked in front of a mental health center. They can start to access this treatment from their phone in private.”

Douglas County is providing myStrength free to Douglas County residents this year through a quarter-cent sales tax voters approved in November 2018 to improve behavior health services and facilities in Douglas County.

To sign up for myStrength, email myStrength@douglascountyks.org or contact one of the eight Douglas County community agencies.

Mary Shultz
Supreme Court to conduct special evening session in El Dorado

The Kansas Supreme Court will conduct a special evening session October 7, 2019, in El Dorado as part of its ongoing outreach to familiarize Kansans with the high court, its work, and the overall role of the Kansas judiciary. The court will be in session from 6:30 p.m. to about 8 p.m. Monday, October 7, in the 900-seat auditorium of El Dorado High School, 401 McCollum Rd. It will be the Supreme Court’s first visit to El Dorado in the court’s 158-year history, and it will be the 11th time the court will hear cases in the evening. The public is invited to attend the special session to observe the court as it hears oral arguments in two cases to be announced later. After the hearing concludes, the justices will greet the public in an informal reception in the commons outside the auditorium.

The court started conducting evening sessions when it visited Hays in April 2015. The court's visit to Lawrence in April 2019 drew a record crowd for an evening session of about 800 people.

Mary Shultz