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Katrina Allen pleaded guilty to attempted possession of methamphetamine pursuant to a plea agreement but did not appear for her scheduled sentencing hearing as ordered pursuant to the plea agreement. Allen eventually appeared in court, but the district court released the State from its plea obligation to recommend probation at sentencing. The court of appeals affirmed. Allen appealed, arguing that the district court erred in releasing the State from its obligations because she substantially complied with her obligations under the plea agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed without reaching the merits of Allen's argument, as Allen failed to address a dispositive procedural holding of the court of appeals in her petition.
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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF KANSAS
STATE OF KANSAS,
KATRINA P. ALLEN,
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
Absent application of a permissive exception for plain error, under Supreme Court
Rule 8.03(a)(5)(c) (2011 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 69) on petitions for review, the Supreme
Court will not consider issues not presented in the petition or fairly included therein.
Under Supreme Court Rule 8.03(g)(1), a party must allege that an issue was
decided erroneously by the Court of Appeals in order for the issue to be properly before
the Supreme Court on petition for review.
If a party fails to challenge on petition for review a dispositive procedural holding
of the Court of Appeals, that holding stands, and the Supreme Court will not address an
alternative merits-based holding of the Court of Appeals.
Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed January 29,
2010. Appeal from Johnson District Court; JAMES F. VANO, judge. Opinion filed February 3, 2012.
Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is
Meryl Carver-Almond, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause, and Rachel L.
Pickering, of the same office, was with her on the brief for appellant.
Steven J. Obermeier, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Stephen M. Howe, district
attorney, Ramsey A. Olinger, legal intern, and Steve Six, attorney general, were with him on the brief for
The opinion of the court was delivered by
BEIER, J.: On petition for review, Katrina P. Allen appeals the Court of Appeals'
affirmance of the district court's denial of her motion for specific performance of her plea
agreement. Allen argues that the district court erred in releasing the State from its plea
obligation to recommend probation at sentencing because she substantially complied with
her obligations under the plea agreement. Because we hold that Allen failed to address a
dispositive procedural holding of the Court of Appeals in her petition, we do not reach
the merits of Allen's argument.
Allen was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and
one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. As a result of a plea agreement, the State
amended the complaint to one count of attempted possession of methamphetamine and
dismissed the remaining charges.
The written agreement also provided in relevant part:
"[T]he above parties and counsel do hereby confirm that the following terms and
conditions are mutually acceptable and shall be recommended to the Court at the time of
sentencing or disposition of this case, and are expressly conditioned on defendant
appearing for sentencing as ordered:
Defendant to plea[d] guilty to Amended Count I
State to dismiss the balance
Parties recommend low-box sentencing
Probation per LSIR guidelines"
Allen entered her guilty plea on January 30, 2008. She failed to appear for her scheduled
sentencing hearing on the morning of April 11, 2008, and the judge ordered issuance of a
bench warrant. When Allen arrived at court later that day, the district judge vacated the
bench warrant, but the State was no longer ready for sentencing, and Allen's counsel
informed the judge that he needed more time to speak with the State about a motion for
departure. The sentencing hearing was moved to April 30, 2008.
Allen again failed to appear for sentencing on April 30, and the district judge
again issued a bench warrant.
Allen was arrested on September 15, 2008. At her eventual appearance in court on
October 17, 2008, Allen attributed her lengthy absence to her attendance at her mother's
funeral out of town. Sentencing was set for October 30, 2008, and Allen appeared as
In a written motion for specific performance and during argument in front of the
district court, Allen's counsel took the position that the written agreement's express
condition that Allen "appear for sentencing as ordered" was not a term of the plea
agreement because it did not appear under the "TERMS" label. Counsel also argued that
the requirement was vague and unenforceable. The State was therefore bound to
recommend that Allen, who was unwilling to withdraw her plea, receive probation.
The State responded that it was no longer bound by its promise to recommend
probation and expressed willingness to rescind the entire agreement and take the original
charges to trial.
The district judge sided with the State.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, Allen argued that "the State was bound by its
plea agreement because Ms. Allen substantially complied with the plea agreement," an
argument she had not made in the district court. Allen did not renew the arguments she
had made below. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court on procedural and
"Allen argues for the first time on appeal that she substantially performed the
contract, so the contract should be enforced. Issues not asserted before the trial court
cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. State v. Warledo, 286 Kan. 927, 938, 190
P.3d 937 (2008). Allen claims no exception to this rule. Besides, her conduct can hardly
be characterized as substantial performance. The breach was neither minor nor
immaterial. See Almena State Bank v. Enfield, 24 Kan. App. 2d 834, 838, 954 P.2d 724
(1998). Nor did she make an honest effort in good faith to perform. It took a warrant for
her arrest and an arresting officer to bring her before the court for the sentencing hearing
she earlier had promised to attend. The district court did not err in denying Allen's motion
for specific performance." State v. Allen, No. 101,575, 2010 WL 445928, at *1 (Kan.
App. 2010) (unpublished opinion).
On petition for review to this court, Allen challenged only the Court of Appeals'
merits-based holding. She did not challenge the Court of Appeals' independent and
dispositive procedural holding, citing only one case discussing exceptions to the rule that
appellate issues be preserved in the district court and then merely for the de novo
standard of review governing interpretation of plea agreements.
Supreme Court Rule 8.03(a)(5)(c) (2011 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 70) provides that
"[i]ssues not presented in the petition [for review], or fairly included therein, will not be
considered by the court"; permissive exception exists for plain error. Supreme Court Rule
8.03(g)(1) provides that "[t]he order granting review may limit the questions on review. If
review is not limited, the issues before the Supreme Court include all issues properly
before the Court of Appeals that the petition for review or cross-petition allege were
decided erroneously by the Court of Appeals."
Allen's argument that she was entitled to specific performance of the State's plea
agreement obligation to recommend probation because she substantially performed was
the only one "presented in" her petition or "fairly included therein." It is the only "issue"
she alleges was "decided erroneously by the Court of Appeals." The procedural bar raised
by her failure to preserve that argument or issue by presenting it to the district court,
which was an alternative and sufficient basis for the Court of Appeals' affirmance,
appears nowhere in her petition for review and, consequently, is not before this court.
That holding stands, making any ruling this court might arrive at on the merits of Allen's
claim worthless to her. See Holmes v. State, 292 Kan. 271, 284, 252 P.3d 573 (2011)
(where defendant failed to present contrary ruling of Court of Appeals in petition for
review, ruling not eligible for Supreme Court review); State v. Roberts, 293 Kan. 29, 33,
259 P.3d 691 (2011) (issue decided in defendant's favor not cross-petitioned by the State
not before this court).
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed; the judgment of the district
court is affirmed.
JOHNSON, J., dissenting: I respectfully dissent. The general rule that an issue
cannot be raised for the first time on appeal is not a jurisdictional bar to appellate review.
There are "several exceptions to the general rule that an issue cannot be considered for
the first time on appeal." Trotter v. State, 288 Kan. 112, 124, 200 P.3d 1236 (2009); see
State v. Gomez, 290 Kan. 858, 862, 235 P.3d 1203 (2010). It is not uncommon for an
appellate court to consider the merits of an issue which the district court did not first
consider. When that occurs, the appellant should be able to infer that the appellate court
has eschewed the general rule of issue preservation and has declined to resolve the matter
on procedural grounds.
But the majority appears to suggest that an appellate court can declare an issue
unreviewable as unpreserved but then proceed to nevertheless review the merits of the
issue as an alternative basis to bolster its decision that the issue is unreviewable. Besides
having a Catch-22 feel, we have never, to my knowledge, declared such an "alternative
basis" exception to the preservation rule. Apparently, the State was also unaware that an
appellate court could simultaneously declare an issue unreviewable and then review it,
thereby retaining the procedural basis for the decision even if the decision on the merits is
erroneous. The State did not file a reply to Allen's petition for review; it did not file a
supplemental brief to this court; it did not challenge whether this court could review the
Court of Appeals' decision on the merits; and it certainly did not argue that an appellate
court is permitted to make a conditional ruling on the merits which is effective only if its
procedural ruling on preservation is erroneous. Cf. State v. McCaslin, 291 Kan. 697, 709,
245 P.3d 1030 (2011) (an issue not briefed is deemed waived and abandoned). The
"alternative basis/conditional merits decision" holding is a figment of the majority's
imagination, unsupported by any briefing or argument from the parties. I would not go
Further, the issue that Allen wanted the appellate courts to decide is whether the
district court should have forced the State to perform under the plea agreement. The
Court of Appeals decided that issue adversely to Allen. It is clear to me that Allen's
petition for review alleged that the Court of Appeals' decision—on all alternative bases—
was erroneous. I would review the merits.