TOPEKA — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is no longer representing himself in a federal lawsuit over the state's voter registration law that he lost after being found in contempt of court.
Court documents show Kansas Solicitor General Toby Crouse will argue the case at the appeal stage.
Crouse filed a notice this week on Kobach's behalf saying he intends to appeal after Judge Julie Robinson ruled unconstitutional a state law requiring people to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
Kobach, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said that typically the attorney general's office would handle a complex civil lawsuit or hand it off to a private law firm. But given his experience as an appellate litigator and as a constitutional law professor, he said he wanted to assemble his own team of attorneys.
"But now, of course, regardless, I won't have that team of attorneys here so we will be handing that ball back to the attorney general's office," Kobach said, a reference to the fact that he will no longer be secretary of state come January 2019.
Clint Blaes, a spokesman for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, confirmed that office had taken over the role of lead counsel in the appeal of the case. He said Schmidt is committed to "vigorously defending" the constitutionality of the law.
Kobach may still provide help in the case, if asked.
"The attorney general has conferred with the secretary of state, who has agreed to provide such assistance on appeal as may be requested by the attorney general," Blaes said in a statement.
Sophia Lin Lakin, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued Kobach over the voter registration law, said the entry of the attorney general's office wouldn't change the case. Attorney Mark Johnson, who also challenged the law, said the move wasn't surprising and called Crouse an excellent lawyer.
"Good Move on their part," he wrote in an email.
The attorney general's intervention in the case doesn't extend to the sanctions ordered by the court against Kobach, which include attending continuing legal education classes. Robinson frequently chastised Kobach during the trial for ignoring proper courtroom procedure.
In her ruling last month, Robinson ordered a halt to the state's requirement that people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The decision holds the potential to make registration easier as the August and November elections approach.
In April, Robinson found Kobach in contempt, saying he had acted disingenuously and had not followed a previous court order.