The good news? Former Kansas secretary of state and current Senate candidate Kris Kobach is being held accountable for his conduct during a trial over his signature voting legislation.
The bad news? We don’t know the precise details of how the case was resolved, because it went into diversion. Kobach made some information about the process public — which is more than required — but not all.
If you missed the drama last year, Kobach represented himself and repeatedly stumbled in court, losing the case and attracting national mockery. It didn’t help his cause that the judge ordered him to take remedial legal education. As one might expect under those circumstances, several complaints were made with the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator’s Office, which looks into possible misconduct by lawyers.
According to reporting from The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Sherman Smith, the complaints were resolved Oct. 10. “A public notice of the agreement says Kobach stipulates he didn’t properly supervise lawyers and non-lawyers while representing himself as the Kansas secretary of state in a lawsuit over his signature legislation, which required new voters to show a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship before registering to vote,” Smith wrote. “There was no finding of dishonest conduct by Kobach.”
Kobach’s campaign seized on the last finding, while blasting the complaints overall as politically motivated. Unfortunately, because this is a diversion agreement, details besides the ones just quoted are confidential.
We understand the diversion process exists for a reason. Not all cases should have all of the details made public, and diversion can be a powerful tool in reshaping the criminal justice system. As ACLU of Kansas legal director Lauren Bonds noted, “Ideally, as in this case, diversion should be available to all who qualify and not just those in a position of privilege.”
But Kris Kobach is no everyday Kansan.
He is one of the highest profile state politicians, one who has courted the spotlight in good times and bad. He is currently running for one of the most powerful of all political offices, that of United States senator.
In his work on voting regulations, Kobach repeatedly stressed the need for documentation and proof. Those who wanted to vote needed to prove who they were and where they came from for the process to work correctly, he claimed.
If that’s the case, and if he wants the votes of Kansans, he should be similarly dedicated to enlightening all of Kansas on the details of his diversion agreement. In what ways did his supervision fall short? What are the terms he agreed to? What is the diversion contingent upon?
Kobach asked much of Kansans. In this case, they should similarly ask much of him.