The Kansas Justice Institute, a subsidiary of the Kansas Policy Institute, is looking for cases where Kansas state or municipal statute has stepped too far on the freedoms of Kansans. Some of these may seem like small issues, but to those they effect, they are not. The first real triumph for the new initiative is a case decided last week.
“The case is all about free speech,” said Sam MacRoberts, Litigation Director and General Counsel for the Kansas Justice Institute. “I represented Mark and Coraleen Bunner who are out in Pfeifer, Kansas. For years, they were unable to advertise their raw milk. Raw milk is simply unpasteurized milk. It was a crime. It was a misdemeanor if you were to go off your property and even talk about your raw milk.”
Thanks to the decision, the Bunners and other farmers like them can advertise their wares. The Kansas Justice Institute is also looking for cases to challenge current law regarding civil asset forfeiture.
“The asset forfeiture laws in Kansas, when you sit down and you think about them, are borderline ridiculous,” said MacRoberts. “Right now, you don’t have a right to have a jury trial and the burden of proof is on the person to prove their innocence.”
Proving your innocence without resources is a difficult thing to do, which is why, in general, the burden of proof is on the state, because it can bring resources to bear on cases that individuals don’t have. That’s not how the current forfeiture law is written.
“Liberty has taken just thousands of paper cuts,” said MacRoberts. “The government has come in and, over the years, they slowly just restrict your right to do something and people kind of forget about it and it builds up and it builds up. Then all of the sudden, you sit down and you take a look and you’ve got a statute just like the raw milk case, where, then it becomes clear, like, oh my gosh, how did this ever happen?”
MacRoberts says the Kansas Justice Institute will take on even the smallest of cases if it means more freedom and more liberty.