Kansas Supreme Court affirms district judge’s ruling

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Last year, the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed a Leavenworth County judge’s decision in what is known as a child in need of care case. But the Court of Appeals decision has now been reversed by the Kansas Supreme Court.

A majority of justices with the Kansas Supreme Court found the district court’s judge original ruling “is supported by clear and convincing evidence.”

The Supreme Court decision was released Friday.

At issue was a decision by District Judge Gerald Kuckelman in a 2018 case that determined a teenage girl was a child in need of care.

State law defines a child in need of care, in part, as a minor who “is without the care or control necessary for the child’s physical, mental or emotional health.”

The girl’s mother appealed the judge’s decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which reversed the district judge’s decision. Prosecutors appealed the Court of Appeals ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In the majority opinion written by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Z. Wilson, justices found there is sufficient evidence to show the girl in the case had been subjected to emotional abuse as that term is defined “under the admittedly broad parameters” in state law.

The justices remanded the case back to Leavenworth County District Court for further post-adjudication proceedings.

The Kansas Supreme Court decision was not unanimous.

Justice Caleb Stegall wrote a dissenting opinion in which he stated he could not join the Supreme Court majority in determining the prosecution had met its burden to establish by clear and convincing evidence the girl had suffered emotional abuse.

Stegall argued “the legal standard of ‘emotional abuse’ has now been effectively stripped of any objective content by today’s decision.”

Justice Keynen Wall Jr. joined the dissenting opinion.

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