KS Supreme Court's disciplinary board investigating Kobach

Published: Jul. 17, 2017 at 3:16 PM CDT
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A state agency has launched an investigation into Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s involvement in voting cases, including allegations that he misrepresented the content of a document he was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump.

The Office of Disciplinary Administration considers misconduct complaints against Kansas attorneys, and Kobach is the only secretary of state in the country with prosecutorial powers. The Republican also serves as vice chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which recently set off a nationwide outcry when the commission asked states for detailed information about every voter.

The Kansas disciplinary panel launched the investigation last week after receiving a complaint by Washburn University student Keri Strahler, who also is a Democratic committeewoman. In her July 3 letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Strahler said Kobach has “displayed a lack of respect for our courts” and alleged there are “ethical questions surrounding Kobach’s behavior as an attorney.”

Kobach’s spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, said in an email Monday that they are reviewing it and have no comment.

Strahler cited U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara’s decision last month to fine Kobach $1,000 over what he called “deceptive conduct and lack of candor.”

O’Hara’s decision stemmed from efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain a document Kobach was photographed taking into his meeting with Trump. That photograph prompted ACLU to seek to obtain it and any related materials on his proposed changes to federal voting law.

Kobach essentially told the court he didn’t have any such documents — the misrepresentation cited in the judge’s order. The judge fined Kobach and ordered he submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Strahler told the AP on Monday that when she read about the judge’s comments she was “very upset about that and felt this needs to be nipped in the bud.” The complaint also references Kobach’s involvement in other cases cited in news articles, including his delay in fully complying with a court order to add thousands of eligible Kansas voters to voter rolls before the general election.

Each year the disciplinary agency receives about 800 complaints against attorneys, but it actually opens investigations for just one-third of them, said Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for the Kansas Supreme Court. She declined comment on the Kobach case, saying investigations are confidential unless formal action is taken against an attorney.

A panel of three lawyers will review the complaint to determine if probable cause exists. For serious matters, the matter can be submitted to the Kansas Supreme Court, which can recommend discipline including public censure, law license suspension or disbarment.

Kobach has championed voter ID laws across the nation and instituted tough proof-of-citizenship requirements to register to vote in his own state, drawing numerous legal challenges.