Supreme Court declines to hear Kansas' reckless criminal threat statute cases

 Picture: MGN
Picture: MGN (KKTV)
Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 3:22 PM CDT
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the Kansas appeals on the state’s reckless criminal threat statute.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review two decisions made by the Kansas Supreme Court ruling Kansas’ reckless criminal threat statute violates First Amendment rights according to Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Schmidt says the Kansas Supreme Court in two separate cases invalidated the state’s reckless criminal threat statute and overturned the convictions of two individuals for violating it. He says one case involved a threat of violence directed at a law enforcement officer and the other was a threat of violence uttered in a family relationship.

The Kansas Supreme Court says it ruled that the First Amendment’s free speech protections require states to prove the person uttering that the threat specifically intended to cause fear in the victim.

Schmidt says he notified the Kansas Supreme Court of his decision to appeal, which was backed by a bipartisan coalition of 17 state and territory attorneys general, as well as the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum and National Organization for Victim Assistance.

“In my view, the Constitution likely permits States to criminalize threats even in the absence of any intent to intimidate,” says Justice Clarence Thomas. “It appears to follow that threats of violence made in reckless disregard of causing fear may be prohibited. The Kansas Supreme Court reached the opposite conclusion by overreading our decision in [Virginia v. Black], which did not answer the question presented here.”

The U.S. Supreme Court says it grants only a small number of requests to review lower court cases, about 1% of the court’s case load.

According to Schmidt, the two cases are State v. Boettger, from Douglas County, and State v. Johnson, from Montgomery County.