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AG Derek Schmidt: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Kansas appeal in identity theft cases

Release Date: Mar 18, 2019

High court also will hear defendant’s appeal in Kansas death penalty case

TOPEKA – (March 18, 2019) – The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear an appeal by the State of Kansas which is seeking to overturn a state supreme court decision that would prevent Kansas from fully enforcing state identity theft and related criminal statutes, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted the attorney general’s request to review three 2017 decisions by the Kansas Supreme Court, which held that, in certain situations, state criminal laws against identity theft and related crimes are preempted by federal immigration law.

“I am encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear our appeal,” Schmidt said. “We remain convinced Congress did not intend to block Kansas from prosecuting defendants for falsifying state tax forms or private legal documents merely because the defendant also falsified federal employment verification forms. We look forward to arguing our case before the Justices in the fall.”

In 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions of three individuals for crimes including identity theft and making false information on state tax forms or private legal documents. In a 5-2 ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court’s majority concluded that federal immigration law preempts Kansas from enforcing state criminal law in these cases because the false Social Security numbers and other information the defendants used had also been submitted on a federal I-9 Form used for employment verification. The attorney general later appealed the state-court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorney general is working closely with the Johnson County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the three cases.

In its order granting the appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court also agreed to hear a related question proposed by the U.S. Solicitor General. That question also involves whether federal law preempts state law in this context.

Currently, further proceedings in all three state cases are on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on the merits in the appeal. The three cases are State v. Garcia, State v. Morales, and State v. Ochoa-Lara.

Oral arguments in the appeal, Kansas v. Ramiro Garcia, No. 17-834, will be set for the fall.

In a separate action, the U.S. Supreme Court today also agreed to hear the appeal of James Kraig Kahler, who was convicted of killing four people in Osage County in 2009 and sentenced to death. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and death sentence, and today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the defendant’s appeal from the Kansas Supreme Court decision. That case also is expected to be scheduled for oral argument in the fall. It is James K. Kahler v. Kansas, No. 18-6135.

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News releases issued prior to 2011 are available through an archive hosted by the Kansas State Library.