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Grand Jury to Investigate Kris Kobach

Another bad legal development for the Kansas Secretary of State and Gubernatorial hopeful.

In June, a federal judge sanctioned Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for "a pattern and practice . . . of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules" in litigation challenging controversial election reforms Kobach had championed.

This week, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a local county must seat a "citizen-initiated grand jury" to investigate allegations that, as Secretary of State, Kobach mishandled voter registration information in 2016. The Lawrence Journal-World reports:

In a one-page order signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, the court denied Kobach's request to review a Kansas Court of Appeals decision in June that said Lawrence resident Steven Davis had met the legal requirement for circulating petitions to summon a grand jury. . . .

Davis, a Lawrence resident who ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas House in the 2016 and 2018 Democratic primaries, circulated petitions following the 2016 elections, calling for a grand jury to investigate whether Kobach or others in his office had engaged in "destroying, obstructing, or failing to deliver online voter registration," as well as possessing falsely made or altered registration books, preventing qualified electors from voting, and "being grossly neglectful with respect to their election duties."

Kobach's office has rejected the allegations, saying they relate to a short period of time in 2016 when certain online voter registration systems were malfunctioning and that those problems have since been resolved.

Kobach claims the effort to empanel a grand jury is politically motivated. Maybe so, but that hardly means Kobach is innocent. Indeed, given his history of sanctionable conduct, I am not sure he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

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  • bernard11||

    Flaunting rules may be impolite, but hardly worthy of a grand jury investigation. Flouting them, on the other hand, is a serious matter.

  • scio me nihil scire||

    He's quoting from the decision directly (see here).

    Perhaps the following formulation would address your concerns: a pattern and practice . . . of flaunting [sic] disclosure and discovery rules

  • bernard11||

    I knew it was a quote, and not Adler.

    That's a worthwhile suggestion, though.

  • aluchko||

    Kobach is one of the more disturbing characters in the GOP, I could imagine him quite at home in a Russian puppet state sorting through ballot boxes and deciding on the exact percentages to publish for a given vote.

    I know nothing about these specific allegations, but he's one of those characters where if you started digging I'd expect a lot of bodies to pop up.

  • Toranth||

    The law certainly does seem to be written that the grand jury must occur after an appropriate petition... but this seems like a terrible law.
    What I find disturbing about this is that there is no *specific* allegation of wrongdoing. That was why the first suit was dismissed. This time, the court declared that there is no need to actually accuse someone of a specific crime to kick off a grand jury investigation. Mere general allegations suddenly suffice.

    Want to investigate a politician in Kansas now? Just claim he or she has misused campaign funds and abused their office. Pow! You can now investigate *anything* they, or their campaign, has ever done.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    The schadenfreude part of me rejoices in this vagueness; isn't that just part and parcel of the old saying about grand juries would indict a ham sandwich? Sauce for the goose and all that.

  • perlchpr||

    Yeah... I can agree with the statement "setting people on fire is bad", and still think that it's fucking hilarious if it happens to someone who goes around setting other people on fire all the time.

    Likewise, terrorist bombings are bad. Terrorists blowing themselves up with bombs they are working on is high comedy. The 'own goal' is a thing.

  • Longtobefree||

    I believe that there is clear evidence of food discrimination in that no one has ever indicted a swiss cheese sandwich. The vegetarians are boldly gaming the system.

  • bernard11||

    What I find disturbing about this is that there is no *specific* allegation of wrongdoing. That was why the first suit was dismissed. This time, the court declared that there is no need to actually accuse someone of a specific crime to kick off a grand jury investigation. Mere general allegations suddenly suffice.

    I see your point, though the other way to summon a grand jury permits equally broad or broader allegations:

    A majority of the district judges in any judicial district may order a grand jury to be summoned in any county in the district when it is determined to be in the public interest.

    ISTM that this sort of offense is a tough one to get at, especially in a virtually one-party state. If it involved corruption or theft then a prosecutor might take it on, but deliberately fooling around with voter registration is a different matter. It probably inspires less public outrage, especially, to be cynical, when the voters who are disadvantaged may be the ones lots of the public, and maybe some prosecutors, would rather have not voting.

  • apedad||

    I don't see any problem with this law.

    People call the cops all the time when they see something possibly illegal--they don't do a complete investigation before calling the cops.

    I see this as the same thing, just a little more formal.

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    A few years ago, an anti-abortion fanatic dusted off this Kansas grand-jury law hoping to harass Planned Parenthood. It did not really work out for him, because the grand jurors had to be selected from the district of the supposed wrongdoing. These urban jurors found no real crime committed by Planned Parenthood and were not willing to invent one out of holy conviction; instead they released reports to the effect: "why was our time wasted on this?"

  • damikesc||

    You'd think Wisconsin's disastrous John Doe bullshit would get states to kill such idiotic "oversight" laws. Oversight does not have to equal witch hunt. This is a witch hunt. There is not an ACTUAL charge. It's "Well, I have a suspicion" and, boom, anal exam for the target.

  • gormadoc||

    A new stupid chapter in the life of a stupid man.

  • bernard11||

    If only stupidity were the worst thing about him.

  • Michael Cook||

    Why would specific allegation of wrongdoing be necessary in the golden age of the Special Prosecutor? If Trump's tweets are to be believed on a national level, Democrats see the brutal coercive tactics of the Mueller investigation as a great success and an opportune political pathway. Members of Congress are now to be given the business by the weaponized FBI because the Democrat Party aims to cull Congress of Republicans and smooth the way for an impeachment vote.

    Our land is replete with enough vague laws concerning campaign finance, taxes, hate crimes, sexual allegations, and so forth to completely solve the problem of law schools graduating too many lawyers for the market to support.

    With an ideological monoculture mainstream media mightily amplifying the lynch mob spirit in favor of these steely-eyed partisan prosecutors, I'd say the nasty tactic has a bonny chance of succeeding.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If Trump's tweets are to be believed . . .

    For example, the complaint about an 'Obama era persecution' of Rep. Collins precipitated by conduct that occurred a half-year after Pres. Trump's inauguration and Attorney General Sessions' installation.

    Carry on, clingers. With all of your gullible, intolerant, stale-thinking, ignorant, can't-keep-up goobery.

  • Michael Cook||

    I might as well as said Stalin-eyed. As to the ultimate consequences, am trying not to think of Bloody Kansas in the late 1850's. A vague or "top secret" allegation being able to sway a FISA court into allowing domestic wiretapping and spying on any American citizen (even presidents-elect!) is frightening! Particularly when any dog vomit can be sufficient evidence without even a hearing!

    Then there is the initiating of an apparently open-ended, infinite fishing expedition with the vague popular title "Russia Probe" but apparently no very specific legal title, goal, or purpose, other than to run around wrecking lives and bullying people while one political party cheers and the other moans.

    Have you ever been in Kansas during a thunderstorm? Our dangerous political moment is mindful of trying to navigate the Hindenburg through a fireworks display coincident with a sudden gasoline cloudburst.

  • gormadoc||

    Kobach is not the hill you want to die on for this. The purpose of the grand jury is to investigate and determine if the charges and evidence are enough for prosecution. This isn't really special in any way.

    We should want all of our politicians to fear potential prosecution for their misdeeds. Kobach has a lot of them. The SoS of Kansas and the former president-elect are not good examples to claim that "spying on any American citizen" is possible on a whim. Neither are just "any American citizen"; they are the ones asking to be trusted with power over the test of us.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    These guys don't choose their hills, let alone choose them wisely. They went for Obama's birth certificate. Pizzagate. The idea that Donald Trump not only would rework economic fundamentals to enable unskilled, poorly educated, backward white males to prosper, but that he also would do so in a manner that would smite the skilled, accomplished residents of our modern, successful communities.

    These folks have never stuck with, decided, or accomplished much of anything worthwhile, and this will be no different. Their betters -- people like Bob Woodward -- will choose the hills for them.

  • damikesc||

    Kobach is not the hill you want to die on for this.

    Yeah, he is.

    We've seen what "Well, this is not the hill to die on" leads to in entertainment and academia.

    For some, there is no such thing as a hill to die on.

    For this --- yeah, this is a hill to die on.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    For this --- yeah, this is a hill to die on.

    Fine. Defend Kris Kobach to the death. You might as well even call yourself a libertarian while doing it!

  • gormadoc||

    This event isn't special in any way. It's a grand jury assembled by the citizenry in a manner consistent with Kansas law. The allegations don't need to be specific; the law allows for general allegations. The only thing that needs to be specific is the area of investigation, which here is limited to his handling of voter records. He was already found to have violated a court order regarding telling certain voters that they were eligible to vote; that is more evidence than is required, i.e. none.

    The dude is a duplicitous scumbag. He doesn't deserve anyone's support and his situation has nothing to do with academia or entertainment. People should be encouraged to scrutinize politicians where private actors could be excused. Besides, if whatever rot you think you've found has managed to permeate even the Kansas Supreme Court, I think the hill was lost before you choose to die on it.

  • Raspberry243||

    Word Salad

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "Kobach claims the effort to empanel a grand jury is politically motivated. Maybe so, but that hardly means Kobach is innocent. Indeed, given his history of sanctionable conduct, I am not sure he deserves the benefit of the doubt."

    Rule of law baby!

    Who needs impartial justice and presumption of innocence if the accused is bad enough.

    Not libertarian/conservative law professors certainly.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Dude, how many times have you argued that the court of public opinion doesn't have a presumption of innocence when sharing the latest Hillary speculation?!

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "Dude"? What year is this?

    He admits that the jury is perhaps politically motivated. A law professor ought to be concerned about that.

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