The Kansas attorney general said Tuesday the state agreed to drop former Secretary of State Kris Kobach's appeal of a federal court judge's contempt order in exchange for the American Civil Liberties Union accepting only $20,000 for attorney fees and expenses.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the negotiated deal reduced from $26,200 the state's obligation to the ACLU. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson had found Kobach in contempt of court while he was serving as secretary of state in Kansas. Robinson sanctioned Kobach for failure to comply with her instructions.
Mediation involving ACLU lawyers and the attorney general's office Jan. 25 also led to dismissal of Kobach's appeal of the contempt ruling. It didn't alter status of the state's appeal of Robinson's underlying election law decision, which found Kansas' proof-of-citizenship statute unconstitutional.
The $20,000 payment to the ACLU must be drawn from accounts at the secretary of state's office led by Scott Schwab, who was elected in November to replace Kobach. In January, Kobach left the statewide office after losing the 2018 campaign for governor.
Kobach was found in contempt while fighting the ACLU's challenge of a state law requiring Kansans to show a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Robinson found the law unconstitutional, but her decision has been appealed to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Schmidt said the appeal of Robinson's striking of Kansas' proof-of-citizenship statute was scheduled for oral argument March 18.
"The bottom line is that a state statute, which was duly enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the Kansas Legislature, has been declared invalid by a federal court," Schmidt said. "As long as the Legislature leaves that law on the books, we think the state’s authority to enact the statute requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote deserves a full and vigorous legal defense.”
During the proof-of-citizenship trial in 2018, Kobach's inability to introduce evidence in a timely manner led Robinson to conclude he exhibited a pattern of "flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial.” She instructed Kobach to complete a continuing education course on court procedure.
Kobach finished a six-hour class in civil trial fundamentals through the National Business Institute. The $359 payment for the audio version of the course was billed to the secretary of state's office.
Previously, a separate $1,000 fine imposed on Kobach for misleading the federal court was paid with a credit card assigned to a Kobach office employee who was deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard.