KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — As Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defends his state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law in court, his team is having some issues following trial procedure.
On multiple occasions, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has interrupted questioning to walk Kobach and his crew of lawyers through the intricacies of moves such as admitting evidence and asking witnesses about previous depositions. Robinson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, has even instructed Kansas’ attorneys on the correct ways to phrase their questions.
Rather than rely on the representation of the Kansas Attorney General’s office, Kobach has opted to represent himself, with the assistance of other attorneys in his office. They haven’t exactly given the impression of crack litigators.
The first hang-up occurred even before the opening statements Tuesday, when Kobach sought to introduce a demonstrative exhibit. Lawyers for the ACLU objected, as they had only been emailed the exhibit at 10:43 p.m. the night before, well after a 24-hour deadline before trial started that the judge imposed.
“The whole point of that is so everyone knows what they’re working with,” Robinson said.
Later Tuesday, Sue Becker, an attorney in Kobach’s office, received a brief lecture from Robinson on “evidence 101.” Robinson’s consternation came as Becker was cross-examining Donna Bucci, a challenger in the case. The judge knocked Becker for not laying the foundation for evidence before presenting it during the cross-examination.
“Evidence 101 — not going to do it,” Robinson said. “We’re going to follow the rules of evidence.”
The hiccups continued on Wednesday.
Becker also cross-examined Marge Ahrens, a co-president of the League of Women Voters-Kansas, another challenger in the case. Becker had presented Ahrens with a booklet from the group’s convention, and asked her to read sections of it. Robinson scolded Becker for asking Ahrens to read from the booklet without first establishing why the sections at issue were relevant.
Robinson said that according to the rules, Becker could only use that document in order to impeach testimony Ahrens was now giving.
“I am not just going to let you read the contents into the record,” Robinson said.
Garrett Roe, another attorney for the Kansas Secretary of State, also got a lesson from Robinson when he was cross-examining Parker Bednasek, a college student challenging the law. Roe was seeking to bring up statements Bednasek made in a deposition given previously in the case. Robinson told Roe he needed to ask Bednasek the relevant questions first to get his testimony now, before turning to his deposition.
“That’s the procedure,” she said.