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In re Paternity of S.M.J.

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 19, 2019

In the Matter of the Paternity of S.M.J., a Minor, by and Through Her Mother and Next Friend Whitney D. Jacobs, Appellee,
v.
David Roy Ogle, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         Under K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 20-1204a, a district judge must not proceed with an indirect contempt hearing until the accused person is present in court.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 54 Kan.App.2d 618, 402 P.3d 607 (2017).

          Appeal from Douglas District Court; Sally D. Pokorny, judge.

          Marc H. Berry, of Olathe Legal Clinic, of Olathe, argued the cause, and was on the briefs for appellant.

          David J. Brown, of Law Office of David J. Brown, LC, of Lawrence, argued the cause, and was on the briefs for appellee.

          OPINION

          BEIER, J.:

         Whitney D. Jacobs challenges the Court of Appeals' decision to vacate the judgment of the district court and remand this case for reconsideration of David Roy Ogle's indirect contempt of court and resulting sanctions. See In re Paternity of S.M.J. v. Ogle, 54 Kan.App.2d 618, 402 P.3d 607 (2017).

         We granted Jacobs' petition for review to address the sole issue of whether Ogle's absence from the contempt hearing should have prevented the district judge from proceeding. We conclude that the district judge should not have conducted the hearing on Jacobs' contempt motion until Ogle was present. We therefore affirm the Court of Appeals' decision to vacate the district court's judgment and remand.

         A concise history of the parties' relationship and Ogle's repeated, open behavior inconsistent with the district judge's orders in this paternity and custody proceeding appears in the Court of Appeals' opinion and need not be repeated or substantially expanded upon here. It is enough to introduce our legal discussion to say just four things: (1) The gist of the district judge's orders was that Ogle must cease widespread slander of Jacobs; (2) Jacobs moved the court to hold Ogle in indirect contempt after his contacts with her employer finally led her to leave her teaching job; (3) the district judge held Ogle in contempt and imposed sanctions after a hearing at which neither Ogle nor his counsel appeared, despite notice of the hearing's time and place; and (4) the judge rejected Ogle's motion to rescind the contempt order, relying on Bond v. Albin, 29 Kan.App.2d 262, 28 P.3d 394 (2000), to support her position that the contempt hearing could be held in Ogle's absence.

         Discussion

         Resolution of the issue before us requires interpretation or construction of a statute. This means that we exercise de novo review of the decisions in the district court and Court of Appeals. Neighbor v. Westar Energy, Inc., 301 Kan. 916, 918, 349 P.3d 469 (2015). Our pattern for interpretation and construction is often repeated:

"When a statute is plain and unambiguous, a court must give effect to its express language, rather than determine what the law should or should not be. The court will not speculate on legislative intent and will not read the statute to add something not readily found in it. If the statute's language is clear, there is no need to resort to statutory construction." Graham ...

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