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Hays v. Ruther

Supreme Court of Kansas

November 22, 2013

Marc L. Hays and Jennifer L. Hays, Plaintiffs,
v.
Neil J. Ruther; Consumer Law Associates, LLC; New Leaf Debt, LLC ; and EFA Processing, L.P., Defendants

Page 783

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 784

On certification of two questions of law from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, J. Thomas Marten, judge.

The answers to the certified questions are determined.

SYLLABUS

1. Certified questions of law turn on legal issues. This court will not decide questions of fact when analyzing certified questions, and neither the propriety of the certifying court's factual findings nor factual findings urged by the parties are at issue in analyzing certified questions.

2. This court presumes that the legislature expressed its intent through the language of the statutory scheme, and, if a statute is plain and unambiguous, this court will neither speculate regarding the legislative intent nor read into the statute something that is not readily found in it. When the meaning of a statute is ambiguous, this court may turn to legislative history, canons of construction, and other background considerations to construe the intent of the legislature.

3. Statutory provisions that are clear when read separately may become ambiguous when read together, invoking employment of canons of construction, legislative history, or other background considerations to divine the legislature's intent. Conflicts between two statutory provisions are an example of such ambiguity in a statutory scheme.

4. Courts presume that the legislature does not enact useless or meaningless legislation, and the judicial interpretation of a statute should avoid absurd or unreasonable results.

5. When a statute is ambiguous and is later amended, the legislative purpose in amending it may be to clarify ambiguities within the statute. Amendments that construe or clarify a statute are to be accepted as a legislative declaration of the meaning of the original statute.

6. Under the Kansas Credit Services Organization Act, K.S.A. 50-1116 et seq., the law firm of an attorney who is exempt from the requirements of the Act under K.S.A. 50-1116(b) and K.S.A. 50-1117(f) is also exempt from the requirements of the Act.

7. Legislation that has an incidental impact on the practice of law does not violate the separation of powers doctrine.

8. When the answer to a certified question depends on factual circumstances, this court will not provide a definite response.

9. The provisions of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, K.S.A. 50-623 et seq., apply to attorneys selling their legal services to consumers.

10. Attorneys may be subject to sanctions under both common-law and statutory causes of action for providing services to consumers in a manner that is deceptive, unethical, or incompetent.

11. It is the exclusive constitutional province of the Kansas Supreme Court to restrict or restrain an attorney in the exercise of that attorney's license to practice law.

Martin J. Peck, of Wellington, argued the cause and was on the brief for plaintiffs.

Christopher M. Joseph, of Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC, of Topeka, argued the cause, and Carrie E. Parker, of the same firm, was with him on the briefs for defendant Neil Ruther; W. Thomas Gilman, of Redmond & Nazar, L.L.P., of Wichita, was with them on the briefs for defendant Consumer Law Associates, LLC.

Derenda J. Mitchell, assistant attorney general, argued the cause and was on the brief for intervenor State of Kansas.

Gaye B. Tibbets, of Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, L.L.P., of Wichita, was on the brief for amicus curiae Trustee Parks; and Eric W. Lomas, of Klenda Austerman LLC, of Wichita, was with her on the ...


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