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AG Derek Schmidt: Sanctions against Secretary of State’s office settled

Release Date: Jan 29, 2019

TOPEKA – (January 29, 2019) – A federal court order requiring the Secretary of State to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees and expenses as a sanction for a contempt finding during a trial last year has been settled for less than the amount ordered by the court, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

In August 2018, Federal District Judge Julie Robinson ordered the then-Secretary of State, who was representing his office at a trial involving state voter identification statutes, to pay $24,658 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and another $1,556.79 in expenses as a sanction for the contempt found by the Court in its April 2018 order. The attorney general’s office later assumed representation in the case and filed an appeal of the sanction with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The parties engaged in a successful mediation on January 25, which resulted in agreement to resolve the sanctions dispute for $20,000 rather than the $26,214.79 ordered by the Court. By prior agreement, the $20,000 will be paid by the Office of the Secretary of State. As part of the resolution, the appeal of the sanctions order will be dismissed.

Schmidt said resolving the sanctions dispute will allow the focus going forward to be on the legal merits of defending the state statute that is being challenged. Separate from the sanctions issues, the attorney general’s office has appealed the district court’s judgment that the state’s proof-of-citizenship statute is in part preempted by federal law and in part unconstitutional. Schmidt said the merits appeal is fully briefed before the 10th Circuit with oral argument scheduled for March 18, 2019. Schmidt said he intends to continue with that appeal in defense of the state statute.

“The bottom line is that a state statute, which was duly enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the Kansas Legislature, has been declared invalid by a federal court,” Schmidt said. “As long as the Legislature leaves that law on the books, we think the state’s authority to enact the statute requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote deserves a full and vigorous legal defense.”

The settled sanctions appeal that will be dismissed is Fish v. Kobach, 18-3186. The remaining merits appeal is Fish v. Schwab, Case No. 18-3133, and Bednasek v. Schwab, Case No. 18-3134.

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