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Jim Robinson named to the Kansas Judicial Council.

The Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court has appointed Jim Robinson to the Kansas Judicial Council. The Judicial Council works to improve the administration of justice in Kansas by studying the judicial system and areas of law, by recommending changes when appropriate, and by publishing aids to further its mission. The Council’s ten members include one member of the Supreme Court, one member of the Court of Appeals, two district court judges, the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and four practicing attorneys.  Jim has a 4-years appointment to the Council and will chair the Civil Code Advisory Committee.

2018 Chambers USA Praises Hite, Fanning & Honeyman

For the thirteenth year in a row, Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, L.L.P.  has been identified by Chambers USA, an international publication, as one of the top law firms in Kansas. Chambers develops its rankings by surveying both clients and other lawyers.   In the 2018 publication, the firm was specifically  recognized for its abilities in the area of commercial litigation. According to Chambers USA, the HFH team “[r]epresents business clients in a range of complex litigation. Has talented litigators who handle matters across a broad spectrum of industries, including construction, real estate and healthcare.”

Additionally, six of its attorneys were recognized as leaders in their areas of the law. Jim Robinson is described by Chambers USA as a “a ‘fantastic lawyer’ with a wealth of experience and operating in the upper echelon of the Kansas litigation market.”   Art Chalmers is recognized for his state and federal court litigation experience, as well as an active appellate practice.  Chambers USA describes Don Gribble as having a well-regarded practice focusing on medical and legal malpractice cases.   Chambers USA recognizes Richard Honeyman as having an excellent reputation in representing clients in sophisticated personal injury and civil litigation.  Additionally, Chambers USA says that Gaye Tibbets earns praise for her tenacious advocacy and sensible demeanor in her employment practice.  Richard Hite is considered as a senior statesman, with an impressive track record in commercial litigation.  Chambers describes Richard as a popular choice as mediator and arbitrator.

Sumner County Commission Proposes to Make Itself the Final Authority on Whether to  Issue Conditional Use Permit, Regardless of the Sumner County Planning Commission's Decision.

SUMNER COUNTY, KS - This week the Sumner County Commission has made public its proposal to change the County's Regulations to give the three Commissioners the sole authority to decide whether to grant a conditional use permit.  On March 7, 2018, they published a notice in the official county newspaper, The Wellington Daily News, of their proposal.  A copy of the notice may be found here http://cdn.gatehousemedia.com/custom-systems/ghns/files/wellington_legals_030718-5a9f0c330c77f.pdf


Jerry Hawkins is the attorney for a group of landowners who filed an action to appeal the County's decision approving a conditional use application by Invenergy, a developer which wanted to build a controversial commercial wind farm in northern Sumner County.


"People may not think about the importance of zoning until it affects them," Mr. Hawkins says.  Conditional use permits are not just for wind farms, they are required for things like wrecking, salvage or junk yards, recycling centers, airports, land used for raising and care of dangerous animals, feed manufacturers, livestock sale barns, fertilizer plants, electrical substations, cemeteries, nursing homes, and radio towers, to name a few.  If a property owner near you wants to build something next to your property and they need a conditional use permit to do it, they file an application with the County.  Under the current Sumner County Regulations, an application for a permit then has to be reviewed and approved by both the Planning Commission and the County Commission.  The Planning Commission is a group of nine people appointed by the County Commission whose specific role is to consider changes in zoning and conditional use permits.  Mr. Hawkins says that a neighbor wanting to keep the permitted uses around his home the same has two layers of protection under the current Sumner County Regulation because a change from the status quo has to be approved by both bodies.


The Sumner County Commission is proposing to change the Regulations so that a majority of the three Commissioners can approve a conditional use permit regardless of what the nine members of the Planning Commission recommend.


"That's exactly what happened to all of the landowners I represent in northern Sumner County," Hawkins said.  Invenergy, a wind developer, wanted to build a 60-65 turbine commercial wind farm next to or around these landowners' properties.  "These landowners had serious concerns about how these large commercial wind towers were going to affect their property values, and their use and enjoyment of their land."  "Once a wind farm is built close to or around your home, what do you think happens to the marketability of your home and the equity you have accumulated?"  The wind developer was offering a $500,000 donation to the County, in lieu of paying property taxes, if its conditional use permit was approved.  After hearing from Invenergy and some of the residents, at a hearing in December, 2017 only three of the nine members of the Planning Commission supported Invenergy's proposal, with one member abstaining.  Later that month, County Commissioners Cliff Bales and Jim Newell voted to allow the wind farm.  Commissioner Steve Warner, who represents the district where the proposed wind farm was to be built, voted against it.  Hawkins says, "We objected to the Commission, saying you cannot approve the permit under your regulations, you need the approval of the Planning Commission."  The County disagreed.


"After the Commissioner's decision, we took the case to court where the judge's role involves reviewing the legality of the decision," Hawkins explains.  Late last year, the judge sided with the landowners.  In his decision, Sumner County District Court Judge Mott wrote, "The County regulations clearly require a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission and the approval of the Governing Body before a Conditional Use Permit is issued.  To rule otherwise overlooks the plain meaning of the words expressed in the regulations and the County's rule of interpretation expressed therein."  This week the County Commission filed a notice that it will appeal the decision, and in the meantime, has proposed to change the Regulations.


The Sumner County Planning Commission will consider the County Commission's proposal at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on March 28, 2018, at the Raymond Frye Complex in Wellington.  "We intend to make it very clear we oppose this change," Hawkins says.  "If a wind farm, junk yard, cemetery, or anything else requiring a conditional use permit is proposed, there should be more protection.  The Sumner County Regulations as written mean the Planning Commission is part of the checks and balances of local government, and their recommendation matters.  We feel it should stay that way."



If you would like more information about this topic, please call Jerry Hawkins at 316-265-7741, or email hawkins@hitefanning.com.


Jim Robinson recognized by National Center for State Courts.

The National Center for State Court’s Annual Report profiled HFH’s Jim Robinson, as a defender of state courts. The article noted his active participation as a member of the NCSC’s Lawyers Committee encouraging others to actively protect state judiciaries from unfair political attacks.  NCSC also recognized Jim’s going work to build relationships between court leaders and the legal profession.  For more information about the National Center for State Courts, visit www.ncsc.net


Court Strikes County Commission Decision Regarding a Controversial Proposed Wind Farm in Northern Sumner County 

On Thursday, September 21, a Sumner County judge issued a decision in a zoning appeal case which blocks construction of a 14,000 acre wind farm in northern Sumner County between the towns of Clearwater, Wellington, Belle Plaine and Conway Springs.  The proposed wind farm would have consisted of 60 to 65 commercial wind turbines.  Previously, on December 7, 2016, the Sumner County Planning Commission, following a public hearing, voted five to three recommending against the proposed wind farm.  On December 27, 2016, the Sumner County Commission, in a two to one decision, voted in favor of the proposed wind farm.

The attorney for the group of landowners, Jerry Hawkins, says that Kansas law allows appeals challenging the legality of city or county zoning decisions.  "Contrary to what the public might think, the judge in the case didn't get into the business of sorting out benefits and burdens of wind farms, what effect they have on the property values of those who live next to them, or whether a wind farm is good fit for this location," Mr. Hawkins explains.  "Instead, the judge decided whether the procedures and regulations were followed."  Mr. Hawkins adds, "Obviously, regardless of what we might think about wind farms, we want to make sure the rules are followed.  That's what Kansas law says the judge is supposed to do."

According to the judge's written decision, Article VII of the Sumner County Regulations states that a wind farm "may be allowed by conditional use permit when submitted, reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission and Governing Body and subject to conditions as the Planning Commission and Governing Body may impose."  The residents argued this regulation means what it says:  both the Planning Commission and the County Commission must vote in favor of the proposed wind farm for the permit to be issued.  Pointing to other County regulations, the County had argued that the Planning Commission was only a recommending body, and the decision was ultimately up to the County Commission.  On this point the judge agreed with the landowners:  "The County Regulations clearly require a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission and approval of the Governing Body before a Conditional Use Permit is issued.  To rule otherwise overlooks the plain meaning of the words expressed in the regulations. . ."  The judge's order concludes that "because the Planning Commission recommended against the Conditional Use Proposal, the County Commission lacked jurisdiction to approve it, and its resulting decision is void."

Mr. Hawkins, of Hite, Fanning and Honeyman, explained that the landowners raised other issues in the appeal.  For example, there is an issue about whether the County sent written notice to everyone entitled to receive it.  "The judge decided that because of his ruling on the Article VII issue, those other issues were moot," he said.

Mr. Hawkins explains:  "We are very happy with the judge's decision.  This decision was not about wind power.  It was about the limited power of a local government to make a decision when it fails to comply with the regulations, and about the power of the district court to review the legality of decisions like these.  These procedures are in place to protect all of us, because the next zoning case might affect you."

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Jerry Hawkins at 316-265-7741, or email hawkins@hitefanning.com.

HFH partner named 2017 Humanitarian of the Year

Congratulations to HFH partner, Dick Honeyman, and his wife, Bonnie Bing Honeyman, who were named the 2017 Humanitarians of the Year.  This award was established by Dr. Donna Sweet to recognize people who make significant contributions to the Wichita community through leadership, guidance, philanthropic and selfless actions.  The Evening of Note honoring the Humanitarians of the Year, was a laughter-filled celebration, as well as a benefit for the Sweet Emergency Fund.  We are very proud of Dick and Bonnie!

Hite, Fanning & Honeyman lawyers recognized as 2020 Best Lawyers in America

Eight lawyers of the Wichita law firm of Hite Fanning & Honeyman LLP are recognized in the Best Lawyers of America 2020.  Additionally, Lawyer of the Year awards are presented annually to a single outstanding lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area.  HFH’s  F. James Robinson was named the 2020 Lawyer of the Year in Wichita in Bet-the Company litigation; Jim was also recognized for commercial litigation, and banking & finance litigation.   Other HFH attorneys recognized in the Best Lawyers in America 2020 edition are Don Gribble (medical malpractice-defense), Richard Hite (bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, mediation and personal injury litigation-defense), Richard Honeyman (personal injury litigation – defense), Jon Newman (employment law-individuals, employment-management/ insurance, and workers’ compensation-employers), Linda Parks (bankruptcy creditor and debtor rights, insolvency and reorganization law and commercial litigation), Gaye Tibbets (employment law-individuals, employment law management and labor and employment litigation), and  Randy Troutt has been ( medical malpractice defense litigation).   Best Lawyers is a peer review publication, seeking the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of colleagues in the same practice area.  For more information, https://www.bestlawyers.com/firms/hite-fanning-honeyman-l-l-p/6368/US

Linda Parks is the Kansas State Delegate to the ABA

Linda Parks is the State Delegate, representing Kansas, to the American Bar Association's House of Delegates.  She has been appointed to the Steering Committee for the Nominating Committee for the American Bar Association.  Additionally, Linda serves on the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty; its mission is to educate the bar and the public about homelessness and poverty, and the ways in which the legal community and other advocates can assist those in need.

HFH is Benchmark Litigation "Highly Recommended Firm" of 2018

Hite Fanning & Honeyman is one of only two Kansas law firms “Highly Recommended” by Benchmark Litigation 2018. Benchmark Litigation is described as the definitive guide to America’s leading firms and attorneys in the area of commercial litigation.   To receive this recognition, firms must receive the most consistent mention by their peers and clients and be held as dominate in their particular jurisdictions.Benchmark Litigation also specifically profiled Richard Hite, Richard Honeyman and Jim Robinson as standouts among Kansas litigation attorneys.  A special congratulations to them! This is the sixth year that these HFH attorneys have been highlighted.  https://www.benchmarklitigation.com/


HFH attorneys named as Super Lawyers

Attorneys of Hite Fanning & Honeyman have been selected for inclusion in the latest issue of Super Lawyers.  Richard Hite is included in the category of general litigation, Richard Honeyman and Jim Robinson are in the business litigation category and Art Chalmers is in the defense litigation category.  Linda Parks is recognized in the area of business and corporate work and Gaye Tibbets is included in the category of Employment and Labor. Additionally, Don Gribble and Randy Troutt are included in the list of attorneys defending medical malpractice cases.  Finally, Scott Hill was selected to be included in the list of Rising Stars in the area of business and corporate work.  Super Lawyers’ annual process for identifying attorneys include independent research and peer review.  No more than 5% of the attorneys in the state can be included in the Super Lawyers listing.  

Kansas Bar Association recognizes Jim Robinson

The Kansas Bar Association bestowed the Phil Lewis Medal of Distinction on F. James Robinson, of Hite Fanning & Honeyman, L.L.P.   The Phil Lewis Medal of Distinction is reserved for individuals or organizations in Kansas who have performed outstanding and conspicuous service at the state, national or international level in administration of justice, science, the arts, government, philosophy, law, or any other filed offering relief or enrichment to others.  

Tracie England joins the KADC board

HFH Partner, Tracie England, has been elected to the 2018 board of the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel (kADC).  The KADC is a non-profit organization of lawyers who devote a substantial part of their practice to the defense of civil lawsuits.  The goal of the KADC is to improve skills and knowledge of the attorney and to work for the administration of justice. 

Jim Robinson receives KADC's Highest Honor

The Kansas Association of Defense Counsel presented F. James Robinson with the Kahrs Lifetime Achievement Award.  This award is the KADC’s highest honor, given only to those individuals with a distinguished legal and public service career.  Aside from being a highly regarded attorney, Jim serves as a leader in the educating others of the role of an independent judiciary. The award was presented during the KADC's annual conference in December 2017. 

Don Gribble Inducted into the ACTL

Don Gribble has been inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, a professional association of lawyers skilled and experienced in the trial of cases.  Fellowship is by invitation only and limited to one percent of lawyers practicing in a state.