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Archive for Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Statehouse Live: Democrats criticize hiring private firm to defend state in lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood

July 13, 2011, 2:13 p.m. Updated July 13, 2011, 5:11 p.m.

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— At a time when the state is cutting costs by shutting down welfare offices, including the one in Lawrence, it is spending big bucks on private attorneys in an abortion-related lawsuit.

“If I lived in Lawrence, I’d be really angry,” Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Wednesday.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. have announced the closure of nine SRS offices, including the one in Lawrence, which is the biggest one by far.

Brownback and Siedlecki have cited the state’s budget problems as the reason for the shutdowns.

But in another area, the state has hired private attorneys to defend itself in a federal lawsuit challenging a state provision, signed into law by Brownback, that has denied Planned Parenthood federal family planning funds.

The firm of Foulston Siefkin LLP has been retained in the case. According to the Kansas attorney general's office, the state's cost for this representation ranges from $115 per hour for para-legal work up to $300 per hour for litigation partners. No bill has been submitted yet in the recent legal challenge.

“As SRS offices are being closed and vital services that people depend on are being decimated in the name of fiscal responsibility, it is appalling to me that Gov. Brownback hires a lucrative law firm to defend his extreme social agenda,” Hensley said.

Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherienne Jones-Sontag said the decision to hire Foulston Siefkin was Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s who is also a Republican.

“It is within the discretion of the attorney general to staff the obligations of that office in the manner judged to be in the best interests of Kansas.

“Gov. Brownback respects the constitutional distinctions between his office and the office of the attorney general and accepts the staffing decisions of the attorney general in this matter,” she said.

The attorney general’s office is responsible for defending state laws, but does hire outside help occasionally, usually for special expertise, as is the case with water litigation, or if there is a conflict of interest. Schmidt’s office did not return a phone call and email asking why the office hired an outside firm in the Planned Parenthood case.

Hensley also noted that the Foulston law firm represents the billionaire Koch brothers, who are the owners of Wichita-based Koch Industries, involved in numerous right-wing causes and are one of Brownback's largest campaign contributors.

The state also faces another federal lawsuit in which abortion clinics have challenged new regulations. The attorney general's office says it expects to hire an outside firm in that case, too.

Brownback supported and signed into law both the new regulations on abortion clinics and diverting $334,000 in federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood. Even though the family planning funds cannot be used for abortions, abortion opponents say those funds subsidize abortions. Planned Parenthood has denied that allegation.

Comments

kansanjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

The fact is that the AG needs to do a good job of defending the law because PP will do everything possible to stay on the State's dole...they want to have our tax dollars...they don't deserve them at all.

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kansanjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

This is not something exceptional. Hiring the best legal representation for the defense of the law is something the Attorney General has done in the past and on a fairly regular basis! Most of those writing opposition letters do not support the newly enacted law anyway.

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olddognewtrix 2 years, 9 months ago

There is something seriously wrong with this story. twenty years ago Foulston and siefkin represented the Kochs, until Koch the elder died leaving his share of the industry to several of his sons. then when he died Mrs. Koch fearing that the very aggressive brothers would sue her estate for leaving her shares equally to the kids. So, she had Bob Howard the Sr. member of the firm draw a will for her that had an interrorum clause, that disinherited any child who sued her estate. When she died two of the more greedy brothers sued the Foulston and Siefkin firm for "undue influence" in writing her will seeking to thow out the whole will. The Kansas court system had no problem upholding the will, but the two controlling brothers fired Fulston and Siefkin, and hired one of its firm members to form their own legal department.

It is true that some of the younger members of the firm are on close terms with Brownbacks lawyers. But the firm is very competent and ethical. It hires only Order of the Coif and law review editors . The Univ of ks selected the firm to investigate its ticket scandel.

I have no sympathy for Brownbacks position fighting Planned Parenthood, but cleiming the law firm is Koch dominated is false.

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Agnostick 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks to oldvet for taking a shot at my answer above. Hop on the Crazy Train with me for a moment, please...

Is it possible that Schmidt and/or Brownback are hiring outside help, so that Schmidt can focus all his time and efforts on testifying? Presumably, he would be called as a witness for the defense, and the plaintiffs would have a shot at cross examination. Schmidt could testify on how the new laws were enforced, illustrate how they were enforced fairly, etc. For Schmidt to be lead counsel and a witness, if not outright illegal, would look even funnier than this already does... wouldn't it?

I warned you this was crazy...!

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verity 2 years, 9 months ago

I just glanced over the comments, so these may already have been posted, but here are email addresses for Brownback and Schmidt. I did get a canned reply from the governor's office, so that one is good. Nothing from Schmidt. I didn't try calling as I can't afford to pay while waiting on hold.

Gov. Brownback - (785) 296-3232 or governor@ks.gov AG Schmidt - (785) 296-2215 or derek.schmidt@ksag.org

Please let them know how you feel. Keep the pressure on.

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Resident10 2 years, 9 months ago

I am an attorney and pretty conservative. But this is over the line. What statement is being made about the AG's office? How can this be anything other than political payback? I was kind of agnostic to Brownback until now. I see this as dangerous.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

cait48 (anonymous) replies… With the likes of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney running for the nomination? Frighteningly, I would say Brownback actually has a chance. ==== Perhaps, but the last time he ran in Iowa in a presidential primary his vote count was so low it totaled "Zero." If he can't make it in Iowa playing to their uber-conservative crowd and pretending he's just a simple farm boy from Parker Kansas, I don't know where he will go over well. If his skygod tells him to run, it will be in 2016 if Obama wins another term and later than that if an R gets the big chair in DC.

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consumer1 2 years, 9 months ago

big deal they criticize everything that is not on their agenda

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Jimo 2 years, 9 months ago

Outrageous.

A. Taxpayers paid for this legal defense once already - by providing a budget to the AG's office.

B. Then taxpayers pay again.

C. Taxpayers get poor advice for their money, as competent lawyers would be advising Brownback that he's in the wrong and needs an about-face to avoid losing in court.

D. The taxpayers money is funneled to an associated political supporter as a payoff for past (and likely ongoing) bribes to vary GOP figures.

E. Middle class and poor citizens must go without core governmental services to pay for the redirecting of their own tax dollars toward an attack on their own liberties.

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consumer1 2 years, 9 months ago

big deal they criticize everything that is not on their agenda.

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irvan moore 2 years, 9 months ago

so the ag said he is not qualified to do his job??

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

He blames the closing of the SRS office on the legislature, and the hiring of Kock lawyers on the AG's office. Has he just been too busy packing for his "begging to be VP candidate" Texas trip. Oh, I mean prayer meeting. Amen. Do us a favor, Texas, keep him. He's more your style anyway.

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deskboy04 2 years, 9 months ago

This makes me miss the Joan Finney years.

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kernal 2 years, 9 months ago

grammaddy, it doesn't scare the hell out of me, but it certainly concerns many of us.

I'm not only concerned but also somewhat fascinated with Brownback's decisions. He claims to be making his decisions to reduce our debt, yet some of his decisions will cost us more money due to looming law suits. If he keeps this up, he can kiss his future political career good-bye.

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grammaddy 2 years, 9 months ago

Does it concern ANYONE that our Governor is sooo connected to the Koch brothers? Scares the hell outta me.

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Frightwig 2 years, 9 months ago

So what's the solution? Should Planned Parenthood drop the lawsuit or should the state forgo legal representation? What a mess. How much longer until Brownback is out of office?

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4accountability 2 years, 9 months ago

The current Attorney General is trying to stay "clean" as his only concern is what will serve his next political step best. He cares zero about Kansans. Poor choice we made electing the guy. The Governor does not have the authority to tell him how to run his legal cases. No doubt Schmidt let some of the best staff in that office go when he arrived and probably then promoted a smaller budget knowing he would really spend more contracting cases out. Now...that kind of dancing around with our dollars should be something the legislature and the Governor can do something about.

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kansasredlegs 2 years, 9 months ago

Can we look in our own backyard and pick up our own dog excrement before we start throwing stones in our new Glass Library? Every time the City of Lawrence gets sued and /or it's an "important" issue to someone on the Commission (Wal-mart zoning & Boog's permeable asphalt comes to mind), the City always hires for big bucks Gerald Cooley and Sons or that even bigger firm out of Missouri to represent it when it has its own attorneys working in Kastle on the Kaw.

Before breaking down our glass walls and smelling all that excrement, shouldn't we at least be consistent with our anger and outrage? But, then again this is Lawrence.

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BigDog 2 years, 9 months ago

Coward? hmmmmm ..... I went to the Attorney General's website and clicked on the contact us.... then clicked on the Attorney General's name and it gave me an email address. And they also have phones there Ralph Reed if you really want to talk with someone .... or you can just hide behind a keyboard.

http://www.ksag.org/page/contact-us

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Ralph Reed 2 years, 9 months ago

Went to the AG's website and clicked on the contact us link. Took me straight to a Medicaid and Medicare fraud reporting site. No email link for the AG. Coward.

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Agnostick 2 years, 9 months ago

Legal question....

Say I'm an attorney for the plaintiff. Can I call/subpoena the defense attorney to take the stand and testify? Or does serving as attorney exclude you from testifying?

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

So, now we have a new position dedicated to discovering fraud among SRS cases and private attorneys to defend the state on an abortion issue. How much are we spending for this?

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm. The money they say they are going to save by closing Lawrence's SRS is apparently already earmarked. Although I think they're going to have to come up with another 100K or two. Didn't I hear recently that there will be more lawsuits come out of this legislative session than what Kansas has had in decades?

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verity 2 years, 9 months ago

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/si...

"Kansas has spent more than $500,000 in legal fees and other expenses to defend former state Attorney General Phill Kline (R) and two of his aides against alleged violations of the state's attorney ethics code, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports (AP/Wichita Eagle, 4/17)."

So far.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 9 months ago

Any of you defenders want to pay the AG $300/hour?

Because that would be over $600,000 a year.

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jayhawxrok 2 years, 9 months ago

He is the worst gov we've had in a long, long while. He's a zealot with a religious agenda he has no problem shoving on the people of this state. He is a disgrace.

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Kirk Larson 2 years, 9 months ago

Apparently doing a favor for the Koch brothers' lawyer toadies while getting some hired guns to defend blatant theocratic interference in reproductive health services for lots of Kansas citizens. At least he's multi-tasking.

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autie 2 years, 9 months ago

Lunacydetector, did your finger just blow up or did you miss the entire part about federal law prohibits federal dollars being used for abortion thus your argument is misplaced at best. Did you go to the Glenn Beck school of communication? Tax dollars have not nor never been used for abortion. Whats the matter with Kansas? People like detector remain and stay uninfomed thus rendering them automata of the state.

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Liberty275 2 years, 9 months ago

Kansas voted for brownback. You may not have wanted him, but some people didn't want the library.

Enjoy.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 9 months ago

$300/hour.

There is no excuse. You have to be a real sheep to defend the AG and the Gov on this one.

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

Does everyone now know who's behind all this ? Brownback is just a GOPher for the Koch Brothers who worship a big stone owl in Northern California. - just do a search for koch bohemian etc. What does the Bible say about idol worship ?

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Joseph Jarvis 2 years, 9 months ago

Does anyone know if Kansas has an equivalent law to the federal Anti-Deficiency Act?

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

so p.p. hires a law firm that represented george tiller in wichita, well versed in abortion cases because p.p. lost our tax dollars to fund their abortion clinics. they sue. state of kansas hires outside law firm to defend the state. i'm sure the hiring of this outside law firm pales in comparison to the taxpayers' money p.p. lost.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

We already have a state lawyer. He's called the Attorney General. Who does Brownback represent? Not the people of Kansas.

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jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd like to know how much money this will cost the state.

For those who think saving money and cutting spending is important, you'd think this would be a bad idea.

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autie 2 years, 9 months ago

The lack of logic is mind boggling. Sam diverts/vetoes/whatever about $334,000 that should have gone to planned parenthood that I think they use a lot of in giving out contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. But the Ultra Righties seemed to falsely believe that money paid for abortions. But they all know that federal law already prohibits that. So now let us go waste lord knows how much more money on this lawsuit? Windmills. It is absolutely insane.

Brownbackistan and windmills live unprecedented Contraceptives bless us all

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TheStonesSuck 2 years, 9 months ago

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

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Eride 2 years, 9 months ago

It is all about having priorities. In this case, fighting the questionable legality of your abortion laws is apparently more important then using state funds to provide for the health, safety and education of the states population.

Who voted for this guy again?

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