Mboumi v. Horton

Docket Number123,546
Decision Date28 January 2022
PartiesEbene Mboumi, Appellant, v. Reagan Horton, Appellee, and Reagan Horton, Appellee, v. Ebene Mboumi, Appellant.
CourtKansas Court of Appeals


Appeal from Shawnee District Court; Thomas G. Luedke, judge. Affirmed.

Bryan J. Brown, of Topeka, for appellant.

No appearance by appellee.

Before Gardner, P.J., Schroeder and Cline, JJ.



After years of contentious litigation over custody and protection from abuse matters, Mother moved for contempt proceedings and sanctions against Father's counsel, Bryan J. Brown. Mother claimed Brown violated 3rd Judicial District Local Rule 3.407 by giving Father a copy of the guardian ad litem's (GAL) investigative report, and violated K.S.A. 2020 Supp 60-211(b) by filing certain documents making baseless accusations to gain improper advantage in the custody dispute.

The district court denied the contempt motion but did sanction Brown for his conduct. It ordered Brown to complete six continuing legal education (CLE) hours on civility in litigation and ordered him to pay monetary sanctions to deter additional violations. Brown appeals, arguing the district court lacked authority to sanction him and abused its discretion in sanctioning him. Having thoroughly reviewed the record, we affirm.

Early Proceedings

This case originally started as a paternity action Father filed in September 2015. The parties agreed to enter conciliation to amicably settle parenting time issues. Yet that goal was not achieved.

In February 2016, the district court entered an order of paternity. According to the parties' agreement, the court awarded the parties joint custody of their daughter, H.H. The court ordered Father to pay monthly child support and ordered Mother to maintain valid health insurance. The district court did not order parenting time but noted that the matter was still being resolved in conciliation and the parties agreed the split would be "liberal and reasonable" and "in the minor child's bests interest."

The district court later adopted the parties' memorandum of understanding addressing parenting time, education, and medical concerns. The memorandum referenced H.H.'s diagnosis of sickle cell disease and addressed some of the parties' concerns about her healthcare.

Despite the memorandum of understanding, the parties continued to litigate parenting time and child support matters. In February 2017, Father moved to modify child support based on his job change and his enrollment in a PhD program in statistics at Kansas State University. The district court later approved the parties' agreement addressing ongoing parenting time issues and allowing Father's temporary reduction of child support.

H.H was admitted to the hospital more than once during the proceedings and the parents' frustrations with one another seemed to reach a fever pitch around those times. The parties fought often and moved the district court to resolve hospital visitation conflicts. Mother accused Father of causing or worsening H.H.'s medical conditions. In one motion, Mother accused Father of failing to properly give H.H. her medication and failing to reasonably notify Mother of H.H.'s medical emergency, causing H.H. to undergo unnecessary surgery. Mother reported these and other concerns, including allegations of Father's sexual abuse of H.H., to the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF).

Mother also petitioned for protection from abuse (PFA) against Father in March 2019, based partly on an incident at Children's Mercy Hospital. Bryan Brown entered his appearance as counsel for Father shortly after Mother filed that PFA.

Mother also pursued allegations of physical abuse in a criminal action against Father. Before Father's criminal trial Father filed a notice of intent to depose Mother and a motion to appoint a GAL. Mother objected, arguing Father's deposition notice was an inappropriate attempt to question the victim in his criminal case. The district court never ruled on the merits of these discovery issues but eventually found them moot.

Brown accompanied Father to his criminal trial in Kansas City, where Father was acquitted on all counts. While driving together, Father told Brown he believed Mother may seek other means to make sure he never saw H.H. again, saying that Mother's only remaining recourse was to find someone to kill him. Based on that premise, Father cross-petitioned for a PFA from Mother in September 2019.

The parties litigated their PFA petitions for several months before the district court denied Father's cross-petition. Mother's petition was pending for nearly a year before she moved to voluntarily dismiss it without prejudice. By then, a Child in Need of Care (CINC) case had been filed on H.H.'s behalf. Still, Father objected to the dismissal of Mother's PFA petition against him, asserting that it was based on the false assumption that he had assaulted Mother. Nonetheless, the district court dismissed Mother's PFA against Father.

Appointment of GAL and Transfer to CINC Proceedings

The district court appointed a GAL in June 2019. A couple of weeks before the GAL's appointment, Father unsuccessfully objected to his appointment, arguing the GAL was biased, yet stating only that the GAL was a Washburn Law School alumnus. Mother was represented by the Washburn Law School Clinic.

In January 2020, the GAL filed an emergency motion to transfer this case to another court to adjudicate H.H. a CINC. We repeat this part of the district court's ruling because it sets out in detail facts merely summarized above:

"In his motion, the GAL recites facts that are amply supported by the record in this case. In fact, as of the writing of this order, the Court's Register of Action (ROA) report in this matter covers 13 pages. This is impressive, considering the case was filed on September 1 2015. These 13 pages bespeak continual conflict centering on the minor child and her care. Most notably, the minor child's treatment for sickle cell anemia has precipitated significant clash between the parents. In March of 2019 Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri dismissed the minor child from care due to the disruption created by the conflict of the parents. [Mother] pursued criminal charges against [Father] arising from this incident. [Father] was subsequently found not guilty of all charges. In [Father's] March 28, 2019 Response to Motion for Continuance, he described this as a 'true emergency.'
"Since the case was filed in 2015, [Mother] has made a number of reports to Kansas Department of [sic] Children and Families accusing [Father] of neglecting to provide medicine for the minor child and sexual abuse, among other allegations. Currently, [Mother] has a protection from abuse petition pending in Shawnee County, Case No. 2019-DM-454, based in part on the alleged assault that took place at Children's Mercy Hospital.
"[Father] went so far as to suggest that the parties submit to voluntary electronic monitoring 'so that the court can be assured that neither is attempting to in any way interact with the other.' Motion for Continuance from April 19, 2019 Hearing [sic], filed April 2, 2019. [Mother] has alleged that [Father] 'has shown disregard for HMH's medical condition and has harassed individual[s] trying to provide medical for HMH….' Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Continuance filed April 9, 2019. She further alleged in this response that two pharmacies have refused to fill prescription for HMH due to [Father's] 'confrontational' behavior. Id. [Mother] has also acknowledged that '[t]he conflict between the parties has affected the minor child's medical care for her very serious chronic illness, sickle cell anemia.' Plaintiff's Objection to Defendant's Notice of Deposition and Motion for Guardian Ad Litem, filed May 31, 2019.
"On September 23, 2019, [Father] filed his own Cross Petition for Protection from Abuse Order. The filing of this motion coincided with his acquittal on the criminal charge arising from the parties' Children's Mercy conflict. In his petition, [Father] alleged:
"Given that [Mother's] attempt[s] to utilize legal process to block [Father] from access to his daughter have now failed, it is not unreasonable to conclude that hiring an assassin, or personally killing [Father], may be the back-up plan.
In [Father's] Response to [Mother's] Motion to Dismiss His Filing for Protection, filed October 3, 2019, he cites multiple articles evincing violent, murderous conduct of parents embroiled in custody disputes to prove his point. This petition for protection was ultimately dismissed without a hearing. It is yet another example of the paranoia and hostility on the part of the parents that surrounds this minor child.
"In January of 2020, the parties' conflict over the minor child once again exploded. It was related to yet another hospitalization of the minor child-this time an alleged emergency appendectomy. On January 16, 2020, [Father] filed his Emergency Motion Seeking Hearing on Hospital Visitation. In that motion he sought to obtain 'rules of engagement' for parental visitation at Stormont Vail Hospital where the minor child was admitted. He contended that 'mother [is] repeatedly barging into the hospital room while the father [Father] is alone with the sick child.' He described the situation as 'dire' with a hearing 'desperately needed.'
"In responding to [Father's] motion, [Mother] alleged that [Father] failed to reasonably notify her of the minor child's hospitalization. She had been unable, she claims, to inform hospital personnel of relevant medical history of the minor child. She alleges this failure on the part of [Father] could have led to unnecessary

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