TOPEKA – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked a federal court in Kansas City Monday for permission to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit that will draw the state’s new congressional, legislative and Board of Education districts.
Schmidt said he is asking to be allowed into the lawsuit in order to defend state taxpayers against potential financial costs from the litigation. If permitted by the court, the State of Kansas would join the Secretary of State as a defendant in the lawsuit and the State itself would be represented by the Attorney General.
“As I warned weeks ago, the state has potential exposure to requests to pay the legal costs of plaintiffs’ counsel who are involved in this suit,” Schmidt said. “Because we have an unprecedented number of maps to be drawn by the court, we anticipate an unprecedented number of plaintiffs’ counsel being involved – resulting in unprecedented financial risk to the state. The responsibility to represent the state's financial interest in this case falls to my office under the Kansas Tort Claims Act. We need to ensure Kansas taxpayers have an advocate in the courtroom.”
The stalemate in the Legislature has resulted in the extraordinary situation where a federal court will almost certainly declare unconstitutional the current Kansas laws, adopted in 2002, that set congressional, State Senate, State House and State Board of Education district boundaries and will replace those statutes with court-ordered districts that will be in place for the next 10 years. Never before has a federal court been asked to draw all four sets of district maps for Kansas. As a result, Schmidt said he is concerned about the financial risk that the large number of plaintiffs could pose to the state. Earlier today, the court allowed numerous additional plaintiffs to intervene in the lawsuit.
After the 1982 Legislature failed to enact a congressional redistricting map, the new boundaries were drawn by a federal court and the state was ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees at a cost to taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars. In one Illinois redistricting case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees billed to the state totaled nearly $7 million.
The case is Essex v. Secretary of State. The Kansas Secretary of State will continue to defend the litigation as it relates to the conduct of this year’s election.