The contempt order issued late Wednesday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was literally a case of ‘too little, too late.’ Judge Julie Robinson said his office didn’t do enough and didn’t do what they did soon enough to comply.
“To get this contempt order, the plaintiffs had to show that the court had issued an order, that the defendant knew of the order and that the defendant disobeyed the order,” said Lumen “Lou” Mulligan, Director of the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy at the University of Kansas.”The court here found all those things to be true. Often, what will happen in a case such as this is then the court would then go ahead and re-order that their original orders are being followed through and have some very onerous mechanism to make sure that’s happening. In this case, at the very last second, Secretary Kobach did start complying with the order, so the judge doesn’t have to do that here.”
The judge is ordering Kobach to pay the opponent’s attorney’s fees for a portion of the case.
“That’s actually not especially common,” said Mulligan. “Of course, it’s not going to be from his personal bank account. It will be the State of Kansas, will pay those attorney’s fees.”
It is theoretically possible that Kobach could face action from the Kansas bar, depending on your interpretation of his actions thus far.
“One could read this as failing a duty of candor to the court, which could trigger a review in the Kansas attorney disciplinary committee.” said Mulligan. “That would be something through the state system.”
Regardless of if Kobach faces that sort of action or not, his time in the Secretary of State’s office is relatively short now and the problems will still be around for the office even when he has either moved up or out.
“These orders that the court had issued are orders, in some sense, for the Secretary of State in that person’s official capacity, whoever would be the Secretary of State. These orders around the litigation will stay, whoever becomes the next Secretary of State. The contempt order looks to be personal to the current Secretary.”
In other words, failing a change in decision on appeal of the merits of the case, for now, anyone using the federal voter registration form through the motor voter bill is eligible to vote in all Kansas elections, even if they haven’t provided proof of citizenship.