Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
Montoy v. State, 62 P.3d 228 (Kan. 2003).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is required in notice pleading?
This case explored the issue of what is required in notice pleading. In exploring this case, the court concluded that notice pleading required a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader was entitled to relief. Id. at 229.
In this case, numerous students representing African Americans, Hispanic, and disabled groups, along with two large school districts, sued the State of Kansas, the Governor, the State Board, and the Commissioner of the Kansas State Department of Education. Id. at 230. After asserting their claims, the plaintiffs alleged additional constitutional claims that included: (1) a violation of a requirement created by the legislature that dealt with the financing of public education under the Kansas Constitution; (2) a violation of equal rights protection under the Kansas Constitution; and (3) a violation of substantive due process rights under the Kansas Constitution. Id. After reviewing these additional claims, the district court ruled in favor of the defendants and concluded that the plaintiffs failed to present these claims in their notice pleading. Id. On appeal, the plaintiffs claimed that the district court erred by excluding their claims on the grounds that they were outside the notice pleading. Id. at 230-31.
In addressing the plaintiffs’ argument, the Supreme Court of Kansas first looked to the decision of the district court to exclude the additional claims made by the plaintiff. Id. at 231. According to the district court, the plaintiff alleged additional claims that were not contained in the notice pleading and Kansas law required that a challenge to the constitutionality of a statute be specifically raised in the notice pleadings. Id. Furthermore, the district court concluded that the plaintiff had the opportunity to modify their notice pleading to include these additional claims but failed to do so. Id.
After the Supreme Court of Kansas reviewed the decision of the district court, it was determined that the question at issue was whether, consistent with notice pleading, the existing claims of the plaintiffs were broad enough to include these additional constitutional claims. Id. The court noted that since the adoption of the Kansas Rules of Civil Procedure, Kansas courts had followed the rules of notice pleading. Id. Moreover, the court stated that Kansas Law required a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader was entitled to relief.” Id. Additionally, the court noted that they look at a statement broadly when judging whether a claim had been stated. Id. Further, the court indicated that the purpose of the statement was to give notice of the substance of the plaintiffs’ claims. Id.
According to the court, the plaintiffs’ additional claims were not outside of the notice pleading. Id. at 232. Therefore, under the broad interpretation of the statement required by the rules of notice pleading, the court held that the district court erred in refusing to consider the excluded claims. Id.