On August 1, 2019, the ACLU of Kansas filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas defending two environmental activists attacked in a baseless, retaliatory ‘consumer protection’ investigation in 2018 by an official with the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC).
The plaintiffs seek compensatory damages and punitive damages for emotional distress and lost income due to violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
While serving as the KCC’s Deputy General Counsel, defendant Dustin Kirk filed bogus consumer protection complaints last year against Cindy Hoedel and Scott Yeargain. The complaints alleged that the plaintiffs had engaged in unauthorized practice of law because they shared information, advice, and sample filings with other concerned citizens protesting injection well applications. Injection wells are part of the energy extraction procedure commonly known as “fracking.”
Kirk's investigation not only chilled Hoedel and Yeargin's First Amendment protected petition activities during the pending two-month investigation, it undermined their efforts to associate for the purpose of obtaining legal redress amd caused them immense anxiety and emotional distress.
A contract researcher and former journalist, Hoedel also lost $20,000 of freelance public relations consultant income, the race for a seat on the Chase County Commission, and associated salary and future income because of her portrayal as an extremist.