Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office could have to pay attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union nearly $52,000 after a federal judge’s contempt ruling.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson held Kobach in contempt last month and ordered him to pay plaintiff attorneys’ fees in the case that centers on whether Kansas can require voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, when they register to vote.
Kobach, a GOP candidate for governor and the state’s top election official, failed to adhere to a previous order in the case requiring his office to treat voters whose voter registration status hinges on the case the same as other voters while the case remains under litigation, the judge found.
The ACLU calculated attorneys’ fees at $51,646.16 in a motion filed with the court late Monday. Kobach was sued in his official capacity and the money will come out of state coffers.
"Defendant has continued to deny responsibility for his underlying actions giving rise to the contempt motion, and has displayed disregard for this Court’s authority," the ACLU said in its filing.
Kobach's spokesman, Moriah Day, noted in a statement that the secretary of state's office has already filed its appeal of the contempt order.
"The position of the office is that the fees were erroneously awarded and therefore the disposition will not be known until the appeal is completed," Day said.
The judge may impose additional sanctions against Kobach after she makes her final ruling in the case, which will decide whether thousands of people can vote this year when the state chooses a new governor.
The Kansas House passed a budget proviso last month that would have prevented the expending of state funds when state officials are held in contempt of court, but lawmakers backed away from that measure in their final budget bill after Kobach’s office raised questions about its legality.
"You don't get the contempt (order) unless there's a deliberate act," said Rep. Russ Jennings, the Lakin Republican who initially crafted the proviso. "It's unfortunate that we have to incur that kind of expense."