KANSAS CITY, Kan. ― A federal judge lit into Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his lawyers for trying to introduce information in a trial over voter suppression without giving the other side a chance to review it.
In an unusual move, the Republican state official is representing his own office in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas requirement that residents prove they are U.S. citizens when they register to vote. Kobach and his legal team made a number of procedural missteps throughout the case and been reprimanded by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, who is presiding over the trial.
The dispute Thursday was over the number of people who were on a list of “suspended” voters because their applications were incomplete. Kobach’s office initially provided the American Civil Liberties Union with that information in 2016, but at 10:45 the night before trial, the ACLU lawyers were given an updated list. Robinson didn’t allow Kobach to admit the updated list into evidence because she said it was unfair to spring it on the lawyers at the last minute.
But Kobach’s legal team tried to get the information into the record another way Thursday. While he was being questioned by one of the lawyers on Kobach’s team, the Kansas director of elections, Bryan Caskey, said he had recently done an updated analysis of the number of applicants whose voter registrations were considered incomplete and the number of those who had been removed from the “suspense” list for various reason.
Robinson, who had appeared to be patient for much of the trial, became visibly angry when Kobach’s team tried to introduce the evidence. When Kobach stood up and objected that the numbers were constantly changing and the court needed to be aware of the most recent information, Robinson said that the underlying data were always changing and that for the purposes of a fair trial, Kobach could not keep changing the numbers the court was reviewing.
“That’s not how trials are conducted,” Robinson told Kobach.
When an opposing attorney noted that Kobach’s office hadn’t given them an updated list since 2016, Robinson said that if the numbers were constantly changing, it was outrageous that Kobach hadn’t updated opposing attorneys for two years. When Sue Becker, an attorney helping represent Kobach, stood up to speak, Robinson angrily told her she was out of line.
Kobach’s attorneys have told Robinson that they are asking certain questions during examinations to preserve information in the record for an appeal. Robinson punctuated her rebuke of Kobach’s legal team by saying she wanted her own comments to be preserved in the record for an appeal.
Kobach’s lawyers have made a series of missteps in court this week. Throughout the week, Robinson has admonished Kobach and his lawyers for not following proper procedure when introducing evidence. At one point on Tuesday, she explained how the process was supposed to work and said what she was telling them was “Evidence 101.”
Earlier in the case, Kobach was sanctioned with a $1,000 fine for demonstrating “deceptive conduct and lack of candor” in his interactions with the court.
From May 2017 until January, Kobach led the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission was sued several times for allegedly violating federal procedural laws. Facing legal scrutiny, the White House suddenly disbanded the panel in January.
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