ACLU wants Kobach to pay damages of more than $50,000
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge on Monday to order Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to pay more than $50,000 in attorney fees and other damages as punishment for violating a court order to fully register some voters.
Its filing comes in the wake of last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson finding Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, in contempt of court in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote.
Kobach is nationally known for championing tough immigration and voter identification laws and served as vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded commission on election fraud.
Robinson didn’t impose a fine at the time of her contempt hearing but ordered Kobach to pay for damages, including attorney fees. The ACLU said litigating the contempt motion required 133.5 attorney hours and more than 19 paralegal hours amounting to $49,637.04. It also incurred expenses in the amount of $2,009.12.
The ACLU sought the contempt ruling after Kobach refused to update the state’s election guide or ensure that county officials sent postcards to residents who registered at driver licensing offices without providing citizenship documents. The postcards contain basic voting information such as a voter’s polling place.
Robinson said during a contempt hearing in March that she had made it clear voters covered by a May 2016 injunction she imposed were not to be treated differently.
Kobach did not immediately respond to an afterhours email seeking comment. He has appealed the initial contempt ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, although the ACLU has argued that appeal is premature because a final judgment has not yet been entered in the contempt ruling.
The contempt hearing came after seven days of testimony in the ACLU’s challenge of the state’s voter registration law. Robinson has not yet filed a ruling in the larger lawsuit over the state’s voter identification law.
The ACLU told Robinson in its latest filing that Kobach has continued to deny responsibility for his underlying actions that gave rise to the contempt motion and has displayed disregard for this court’s authority. It cited an interview Kobach gave last month in which he described the court’s contempt order as “just ridiculous.”
“Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for his actions and his continued disrespect for the Court’s authority suggest that significant monetary sanctions are necessary to deter future non-compliance,” according to the ACLU filing.”
The ALU also argued Kobach’s conduct should be a factor considered by the Robinson when she considers whether any “further remedial measures” are necessary before deciding on the final merits of the case.