Archive for Friday, June 22, 2012

Kansas could face big costs in redistricting lawsuit

June 22, 2012


— The Kansas Legislature’s failure to redraw political boundaries this year could stick the state with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills from parties involved in the resulting federal lawsuit, court records show.

As of Thursday, attorneys for 18 of the 27 people suing Secretary of State Kris Kobach over unequal political representation had submitted requests to have their attorneys’ fees and expenses covered by the state — totaling almost $614,000.

The federal judges who imposed new congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts earlier this month must now determine what costs Kansas must cover.

Kobach promised to fight the requests, calling them “excessive.” Kobach was the first defendant, because his office administers elections, but Attorney General Derek Schmidt was allow to join as a defendant to deal only with the legal expense.

“We will strongly urge the court not to award any attorneys’ fees,” Kobach told The Associated Press. “It would be a real disservice to Kansas taxpayers.”

The redistricting lawsuit was filed in May by Robyn Renee Essex, a Republican precinct committee member from Olathe, but the federal judges allowed another 26 people to join her as plaintiffs.

“This was foreseeable, particularly after the dog pile of plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit,” Schmidt said.

The additional plaintiffs included in the Legislature’s stalemate over redistricting, arising from ongoing conflicts between Republican moderates and Gov. Sam Brownback’s conservative GOP allies.

Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, a moderate Overland Park Republican who was allowed to join the lawsuit, said it’s fair to see that attorneys are paid for intensive work on the case over only a few weeks. The court can require the state to pay someone’s legal costs if it concludes that person prevailed.

“There was a lot of research that went into it,” said Owens, himself an attorney. “They had to pull their resources together.”

Kobach, a conservative Republican and former law professor, contends that none of the parties prevailed because his office conceded from the outset that the old political boundaries, drawn in 2002, created unequal representation and were therefore unconstitutional. Also, he said, the judges drew their own political maps instead of adopting existing plans.

“None of these interveners’ attorneys are entitled to anything,” he said.

But Owens argued that his group of four people with common interests did prevail. He said the congressional map drafted by the judges is similar to one he advocated and shepherded through the Senate, only to see it rejected by the conservative-led House. He said the Senate map is similar to a bipartisan plan he and other GOP moderates favored.

“It’s very, very disingenuous of Kobach to say nobody prevailed,” Owens said.

The potential bill from attorneys for Owens’ group was the largest. Six attorneys from two Topeka law firms — Frieden, Unrein & Forbes, and Irigonegaray & Associates — listed nearly $188,000 in fees and expenses.

Owens and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, who also became a plaintiff, said parties relied on multiple attorneys because lawyers had so little time to prepare. Last month’s two-day trial came only 11 days after the additional parties began asking to join the lawsuit.

“It created a difficult situation,” said Davis, whose attorneys had more than $86,000 in fees. “They had to digest a lot of information and get up to speed in a very short amount of time.”

But the attorney general compared having the state cover such legal expenses to “double billing,” because taxpayers already paid their legislators to tackle redistricting.

In all, 39 attorneys were listed as representing the 29 parties, including Kobach and Schmidt, though Kobach represented himself, along with an assistant secretary of state.


Mike1949 5 years, 7 months ago

Again, the far right could potentially cost Kansans more money if the courts decide in favor of the law suites. They (ultra conservatives) continue to make Kansas a welfare state by their actions that removes the freedoms of Kansans.

When is this going to stop? We are already destined to go broke in 5 years as some businesses don't even have to pay taxes now because the unfair laws that discriminate against the majority (lower income groups) of Kansans.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 7 months ago

I think that every state legislator's salary needs to have their wages garnished to pay off any lawyer's fees submitted to the court. After all, the legislators were paid to do the job and didn't do it, and many of the lawyers heard by the courts were none other than the legislators complaining about why the districts should be gerrymandered.

Maybe next time maybe they'll do their job or not clog the courts with their lame testimonies.

Even better yet, I hope that the new legislators pass legislation that make redistricting a court matter like so many other states. The conflict of interest of the legislators have clearly demonstrated why they should not be given the task any more.

obamasocks 5 years, 7 months ago

Of course the state should pay, if the court rules in the plaintiff's favor. Why should citizens be forced to pay to regain their constitutional rights? The state is the one who botched this.

John Kyle 5 years, 7 months ago

Uh, how to reckon the state should pay but not the citizens? Where do you think the money is coming from?

pace 5 years, 7 months ago

this reminds me of the teas 'keep the government out our medicare" it is moronic reasoning to say state money isn't from tax payers. I apologize for calling the reasoning moronic, if it is sarcasm? Sometimes I can't tell if the commenter is being sarcastic.

tomatogrower 5 years, 7 months ago

obamasocks, Please read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We are the state and the state is us. If you haven't been participating in the government by voting and serving on committees, etc., then that's your problem. Get involved. The problem right now is there are so many people uninvolved, who don't even vote, that the Tea Party can come along and tell people that the government is a separate entity, they believe them. Start trying to be a citizen.

Claudean McKellips 5 years, 7 months ago

Until Kobach, Brownback and the Republicans are removed from office we taxpayers can expect to pay for more of their same expensive scams, swindles and general con jobs.

Catalano 5 years, 7 months ago

I think the Saturday columns (for the most part) might please you.

pace 5 years, 7 months ago

You seem to want anything that shows the cost of Brownback's and Kobach's actions be hidden from the public. The free press shouldn't work that way. It isn't true what you don't know won't hurt you.

Orwell 5 years, 7 months ago

Seriously. Why are there no pro-bigotry stories to balance this evil liberal agenda?

Bob Burton 5 years, 7 months ago

The state did not twist there arms to join this lawsuit.. They did it to make a easy buck.. They deserve nothing.. Stay cool!!

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

I want my tax dollars back!

If the legislature can't do their jobs, why should we have to pay out scads of money for lawyers fees and settlements?

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 7 months ago

The GOP politicians in KS would prefer to spend limited tax dollars on lawsuits they know they will eventually lose rather than employ kansans to do the work of the government resulting in longer lines at the DMV, more potholes on state highways, closing state mental health facilities and the neurological institute, etc.

They have a slash and burn mindset and don't care who they hurt in the process.

This isn't the Kansas I grew up in...sadly.

John Kyle 5 years, 7 months ago

“We will strongly urge the court not to award any attorneys’ fees,” Kobach told The Associated Press. “It would be a real disservice to Kansas taxpayers.”

Yeah, KKKobach, let's talk about disservice to Kansas taxpayers.

George_Braziller 5 years, 7 months ago

So is Brownback. He isn't very bright, but Kobach is border-line maniacal in his frantic cause of the day / week/ month / year. Never know what absurdity is going to come out of his mouth.

pace 5 years, 7 months ago

Who's pocket will all these wasted dollars come from? He has not just cut taxes for the rich, he has erased most of the taxes, while raising the taxes on the working families back. We are suppose to support his goofy laws and lack of legislative lead. Goofy expensive laws that give nothing but shame to the state.

Clearly4Kansas 5 years, 7 months ago

I think this will blow up in Tim Owen's face. He's trying to get get 6 democrat attorneys - Pedro I. et al - a huge undeserved payoff at tax payers expense. I'm sure the republican primary voters in his contested senate primary race will be reminded of this around 49 times in the next 6 weeks. Jim Denning looks like the next senator from Tim's district.

Orwell 5 years, 7 months ago

This is sheer nonsense. The wingnuts refused to accept anything less than an electoral deck stacked exactly as they wanted it, so now the resulting costs are somehow everyone else's fault. The extremists' spoiled-brat politics caused the litigation. Whatever happened to that old-fashioned Republican principle of personal responsibility?

Clearly4Kansas 5 years, 7 months ago

Tim Owens tried to implement the liberal senate leadership plan to push redistricting to the state supreme court. But a funny thing happened on the way - it went to the federal court instead and their strategy for keeping control went awry. He then arrogantly tried to cash in hundreds of thousands of $$$ for a cabal of hard left trial attorneys. Now he has to face republican voters in the primary. Here's a clue: republican primary voters typically don't vote the union thug/trial attorney slate.

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