Kris Kobach ordered to attend legal classes for violating basic legal concepts

When striking down his voter registration system, the judge disciplined him for his unfamiliarity with the law

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (L) and US Vice President Mike Pence, attend the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (L) and US Vice President Mike Pence, attend the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Kansas Secretary of State and notorious voter suppression architect Kris Kobach’s documentary proof of citizenship law, and ordered Kobach, who decided to represent himself in the litigation and repeatedly violated basic rules of civil procedure, to attend six hours of continuing legal education classes.

During trial in March, Kobach argued that he had evidence that a significant number of non-citizens were registering to vote in Kansas. The only way to prevent this type of voter fraud, he argued, was his law which required voters to show a proof-of-citizenship document like a passport or birth certificate when they registered to vote.

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The ACLU, which represented the voters in the lawsuit, argued that the law disenfranchised eligible voters, especially students and low-income citizens. According to the ACLU, the Kansas law blocked more than 35,000 people in that state from casting a ballot between 2013 and 2016 — about 14 percent of all new voter registrations.

The judge agreed with the ACLU.

“The court finds no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote,” Judge Julie Robinson wrote in her opinion. “Instead, the law has acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote,” she later added.

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She also rejected Kobach’s idea that his small sample size was just “the tip of the iceberg” when it came to illegal voters.

“This trial was his opportunity to produce credible evidence of that iceberg, but he failed to do so,” she said. “The court will not rely on extrapolated numbers from tiny sample sizes and otherwise flawed data.”

Robinson has previously sanctioned Kobach for withholding evidence and in April, ordered him to be held in contempt of court for disobeying her order to send eligible voters postcards notifying them of their registration status. At trial, Robinson repeatedly had to explain to Kobach and his staff attorneys basic rules of evidence and civil procedure.

“I’m not going to allow anybody to testify to a document that’s not in evidence,” she said at one point. “Evidence 101. I’m not going to do it.”

On Wednesday, she took that discipline to a new level.

“The disclosure violations set forth above document a pattern and practice by Defendant of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial,” Robinson wrote. “The court ruled on each disclosure issue as it arose, but given the repeated instances involved, and the fact that defendant resisted the court’s rulings by continuing to try to introduce such evidence after exclusion, the court finds that further sanctions are appropriate.”

She didn’t stop there.

“It is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules,” she wrote. “Therefore, the court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education. Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant.”

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Kobach, a Yale Law School educated attorney and a former legal professor, will have to sit for an additional six hours of continuing legal education classes on federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence. And American voters are spared from Kobach’s effort to enact more stringent requirements on citizens seeking to register to vote across the country.