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District Judge in Kansas Sanctions Secretary of State Kris Kobach for Discovery Competence Failures

Posted on July 2nd, 2018

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In the consolidated cases of Fish v. Kobach and Bednasek v. Kobach, the plaintiffs challenged Kansas’ documentary proof-of-citizenship law. Based on the grounds that the law had prevented more than 35,000 Kansans from registering to vote, the plaintiff sought a court order requiring the state to register thousands who tried to register at the state’s DMV. Chief District Judge Julie A. Robinson ruled on the dispute and handed down sanctions for failure to follow discovery procedures.

In a 118-page ruling, Judge Robinson said there was not enough evidence to justify the quantified burden the Kansas documentary proof-of-citizenship law inflicted. Kansas has 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach only confirmed 127 cases of non-citizens either registering to vote or attempting to do so. Only 43 of those cases succeeded in registering, and only 11 of those individuals had actually voted.

During court proceedings, the court found that Secretary Kobach (who had opted to represent his own office in the matter and thus had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure) committed “repeated and flagrant violations of discovery and disclosure rules . . . including failure to disclose evidence, failure to supplement discovery and failure to designate an expert witness.” The court found that Defendant Kobach exhibited a “pattern and practice . . . of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial.” The court observed that it was unclear if Kobach was unfamiliar with the federal rules or if he intentionally ignored them.

Accordingly, the court sanctioned Kobach personally with a mandatory six hours of continuing legal education. The education hours “must pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence.”

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