Davis rejects GOP call to step aside from voting rights case

Lawrence attorney and former Democratic Rep. Paul Davis on Tuesday dismissed suggestions by Republicans that he should recuse himself from a federal lawsuit challenging a controversial state voting law.

“These guys either need a good lawyer or they’re trying to mislead you,” Davis said in response to a statement from Kansas GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold.

Davis is representing two clients who are challenging a law enacted in 2011 that requires voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register. Since that law took effect, more than 30,000 would-be voters have had their registrations placed “in suspense” because they have not provided the required documentation.

Davis is also challenging a new administrative regulation that requires county election officers to cancel those applications after 90 days. That new regulation took effect Oct. 2.

Arnold said Tuesday that Davis should step aside from that case, citing a Kansas statute that says:

“No individual, while a legislator or
within one year after the expiration
of a term as a legislator, shall
represent any person in a court
proceeding attacking any legislative
action taken or enactment made during
any term such individual served as a
legislator as being unconstitutional
because of error in the legislative
process with respect to such action or
enactment unless such legislator voted
no upon the enactment of the measure
and declared on the record, during
such term, that such legislation was

Davis’ last term in the House expired in January. Arnold noted that Davis and other leading Democrats voted in favor of the proof of citizenship law in 2011. And, ironically, to make his point, he dredged up an old controversy when Davis and other Democrats filed a formal complaint in 2010 against then-Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, after he represented clients suing the state over provisions of the 2009 budget bill that O’Neal had opposed.

“Paul Davis is suing to block enforcement of a law he voted for,” Arnold said.

Davis acknowledged that he voted for the bill. (So too, by the way, did Democratic Rep. Barbara Ballard, Republican Rep. Tom Sloan, and Democratic Sens. Marci Francisco and Tom Holland.) He said he supported another provision requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, but he said he questioned the requirement that voters show proof of citizenship to register.

Davis also said the conflict-of-interest statute does not apply in his case because it refers to lawsuits challenging laws as unconstitutional “because of error in the legislative process.”

“The intent of that law is to prevent a lawyer/legislator from challenging a law and being a witness in the case too,” Davis said, calling Arnold’s press release a “media stunt.”

“If they want to wage a political campaign against someone who’s not running for office, they’re welcome to do so,” he said.

Last week, a federal judge refused to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent the new 90-day time limit from being enforced. On Wednesday, Davis said, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has scheduled a telephone conference call to set a schedule for the next steps in the case.