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 decides if 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. The County had argued that the Planning Commission is only a recommending body, pointing to other County Regulations, and argued 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 about whether the County sent written notice to everyone entitled to it, for example. "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 unless there is compliance 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Best Lawyers in America
Richard Honeyman was named the Lawyer of the Year in the area of personal injury defense litigation, by Best Lawyers in America. Nine more Hite, Fanning & Honeyman attorneys are included in the Best Lawyers in America 2017 edition. The attorneys selected were Art Chalmers (insurance law), Don Gribble (medical malpractice-defense), Jim Robinson (commercial litigation, bet-the-company litigation, banking & finance litigation), Gaye Tibbets (employment law, labor and employment litigation), Jon Newman (workers' compensation-employers), Kim Martens (workers' compensation-employers), Linda Parks (bankruptcy and creditor rights/insolvency & reorganization, commercial litigation, real estate law), Randy Troutt (medical malpractice-defense), and Richard Hite (bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, personal injury litigation-defense). 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, visit: http://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.
Chambers USA Leading Law Firm
For the eleventh year in a row, Hite, Fanning & Honeyman L.L.P. has been recognized by Chambers USA, an international publication, as a leading law firm in Kansas. Chambers conducts research including surveys of both clients and other lawyers in developing its rankings. In the 2016 edition, the firm was recognized for its practice in the area of General Commercial Litigation. According to Chambers USA, the HFH team "represents 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 HFH attorneys were recognized as leading practitioners in their respective areas of practice. Jim Robinson is described by Chambers USA as a "top-tier litigator with a broad range of experience in a number of different areas, including products liability and commercial law. He is known for handling complex and high-profile matters and has more recently undertaken cases concerning the False Claims Act and trade secrets." Art Chalmers is recognized for his expertise in the insurance industry and is described as "a really good insurance coverage lawyer," who also undertakes a range of other civil litigation. Chambers USA recognized Richard Honeyman as an experienced civil litigator who also acts as a mediator. Chambers noted that Don Gribble is a well known litigator who is regarded as "top in his field for medical malpractice defense." Additionally, in the area of employment law, Chambers USA recognized Gaye Tibbets, as a skilled trial lawyer with experience at both state and federal levels and in arbitrations. Of Richard Hite, who focuses his practice on mediating a wide range of civil matters, Chambers USA quoted a peer comment that "he is well respected and sharp as a tack."
Jim Robinson honored at Wichita Bar Association Law Day
The Wichita Bar Association presented Jim Robinson the 2016 Howard C. Kline Distinguished Service Award. This award recognizes an attorney who, through the years of his practice, has exemplified integrity, professionalism, and service to the legal community. The recipient is one whose qualifications and accomplishments are undeniably exemplary and who is widely acclaimed as having made significant contributions to the honor and practice of the law.
Jim has held leadership positions in the Wichita Bar Association, Kansas Bar Association, Kansas Association of Defense Counsel and Defense Research Institute. Currently, he is the Chair of the Steering Committee for Kansans for Fair Courts and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Lawyer’s Committee of the National Center for State Courts. He is also on the National Advisory Committee of the National Association of Women Judge’s “Informed Voter’s - Fair Judges” Project.
Past accolades for Jim include Distinguished Service Awards from the Kansas Bar Association, the Kansas Association of Justice, and the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel. He received the Kevin Driscoll Outstanding State Representative Award from DRI and is a member of the Social Sciences Hall of Fame of Southwestern College. In 2002, the Child Welfare League of America presented him the National Award for Board Leadership, after serving as Chair and as a member on the Board of Directors of United Methodist Youthville.
Jim was presented the award by the president of the Wichita Bar Association, on May 10, 2016. He was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Robinson.
Benchmark Litigation "Highly Recommended Firm" of 2016
Hite, Fanning & Honeyman L.L.P. has once again been named one of only two "Highly Recommended Firms" in Kansas in the 2016 edition of Benchmark 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.
For the fourth consecutive year the following attorneys have been named "Local Litigation Stars" in their respective practice areas:
"Local Litigation Stars" are identified by Benchmark as individuals who are consistently recommended as reputable and effective litigators by their peers and clients.
Benchmark Litigation is a premier publication focused exclusively on leading litigation firms and attorneys in the United States.
Tibbets talks diversity to the Hutchinson NAACP
On April 7, 2016, partner Gaye Tibbets spoke before the Hutchinson NAACP on "Diversity Issues in the Justice System." The principal objective of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Gaye also serves on the board of the Urban League of Kansas.
Kelly Rundell presented at the KRWA Annual Meeting
On March 31, 2016, Kelly Rundell spoke to members of the Kansas Rural Water Association on "Recognizing the Potential for Workplace Violence." The KRWA is a non-profit organization founded on the mission to provide education and leadership necessary to enhance the effectiveness of Kansas' water and wastewater utilities.
Elizabeth Satterly, Wichita Legal Professional of the Year!
Hite, Fanning & Honeyman L.L.P. congratulates Elizabeth Satterly for being named Wichita Legal Professional of the Year at the Wichita Legal Professionals recent Bosses' Night event. We are so proud of you Elizabeth!
HFH named a 2016 Best Law Firm
U.S. News & World Report named Hite, Fanning & Honeyman L.L.P. as one of the "Best Law Firms" in the practice areas of Commercial Litigation, Insurance Law, Banking and Finance Litigation, Medical Malpractice (defendants), Personal Injury Litigation (defendants), and Workers' Compensation Law (employers). According to the press release from U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, "Firms included in the 2016 Best Law Firms list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers."
Richard Hite featured on cover of Super Lawyers Magazine
In the article titled, "Half a Century and Counting," from Super Lawyers Magazine, Mr. Hite was interviewed about changes in the legal practice during his lenghty and distinguished career.
The latest issue of the Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers Magazine recogninzed a number of HFH attorneys as Super Lawyers: Arthur Chalmers in civil litigation (defense), Don Gribble in personal injury and medical malpratice (defense), Richard Honeyman in business litigation, Linda Parks in business and corporate work, Jim Robinson in business litigation, and Gaye Tibbets in employement and labor matters.
Gaye Tibbets presented on ethics at the KWAA Lindsborg Conference
At the annual conference of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association on July 18, 2015, partner Gaye Tibbets spoke on the topic of "Knowing Me, Knowing You: Common Personality Traits of Lawyers and How They Can Affect Your Practice, Your Relationships, Your License." She was also elected the 2015-2016 president-elect of the organization, congratulations Gaye!
Richard Honeyman receives KADC's Highest Honor
The Kansas Association of Defense Counsel presented Dick Honeyman 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 well respected in his legal practice, Dick holds a personal commitment to carrying out his civic duties by serving in leadership roles that make a difference right here in his own community.
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.
Richard Honeyman elected to historical Museum's Board of Trustees
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum elected Dick Honeyman as one of their six newly appointed trustees. The vision of the board is to “provide a world class Museum experience, advancing the understanding and exploration of the rich historical and cultural heritage of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas.” He will serve a three year term.