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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Kris Kobach’s Lucrative Trail of Courtroom Defeats

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Jessica Huseman and Blake Paterson, ProPublica, and Bryan Lowry and Hunter Woodall, The Kansas City Star, report:

Kris Kobach likes to tout his work for Valley Park, Missouri. He has boasted on cable TV about crafting and defending the town’s hardline anti-immigration ordinance. He discussed his “victory” there at length on his old radio show. He still lists it on his resume.

But “victory” isn’t the word most Valley Park residents would use to describe the results of Kobach’s work. With his help, the town of 7,000 passed an ordinance in 2006 that punished employers for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them. But after two years of litigation and nearly $300,000 in expenses, the ordinance was largely gutted. Now, it is illegal only to “knowingly” hire illegal immigrants there — something that was already illegal under federal law. The town’s attorney can’t recall a single case brought under the ordinance.

“Ambulance chasing” is how Grant Young, a former mayor of Valley Park, describes Kobach’s role. Young characterized Kobach’s attitude as, “Let’s find a town that’s got some issues or pretends to have some issues, let’s drum up an immigration problem and maybe I can advance my political position, my political thinking and maybe make some money at the same time.”

Kobach used his work in Valley Park to attract other clients, with sometimes disastrous effects on the municipalities. The towns — some with budgets in the single-digit-millions — ran up hefty legal costs after hiring him to defend similar ordinances. Farmers Branch, Texas, wound up owing $7 million in legal bills. Hazleton, Penn., took on debt to pay $1.4 million and eventually had to file for a state bailout. In Fremont, Neb., the city raised property taxes to pay for Kobach’s services. None of the towns are currently enforcing the laws he helped craft.

“This sounds a little bit to me like Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man,’” said Larry Dessem, a law professor at the University of Missouri who focuses on legal ethics. “Got a problem here in River City and we can solve it if you buy the band instruments from me. He is selling something that goes well beyond legal services.”

Kobach rode the attention the cases generated to political prominence, first as Kansas secretary of state, and now as a candidate for governor in the Republican primary on Aug. 7. He also earned more than $800,000 for his immigration work, paid by both towns and an advocacy group, over 13 years.

Kobach’s recent legal struggles have been widely reported. In June, a federal judge handed him a sweeping courtroom defeat, overturning a Kansas law that required proof of citizenship to register to vote. The judge went so far as to order him to attend six hours of continuing legal education after he repeatedly botched basic courtroom procedure. Another recent Kobach endeavor, a federal commission aimed at combating voter fraud, which he co-chaired, shut down after a bevy of lawsuits challenged it.

But Kobach’s failures in the courtroom date back far longer. An investigation by ProPublica and the Kansas City Star shows that the towns Kobach represented — small, largely white municipalities overwhelmed by real or perceived demographic shifts — were swayed by Kobach’s message: An ordinance would solve their problem and could be easily defended in court. Based on public records requests, filed in June with the towns that Kobach represented, this article for the first time details the costs to municipalities and the payments to Kobach for his lengthy local legal campaigns.

When Kobach was hired by Farmers Branch in 2007, then-Mayor Bob Phelps said Kobach cited his anticipated victory in Valley Park as a selling point. The city council, Phelps said, “bought it hook, line and sinker.”

In Hazleton, Valley Park’s results were cited as a reason for optimism. Both Kobach and Lou Barletta — then mayor of Hazleton and now the area’s congressman — used the town as a reason to press on with their costly litigation. “Valley Park has a similar ordinance that was modeled after ours,” Barletta told a local reporter at the time. “They were also sued. They went to federal court and won.” Neither he nor Kobach mentioned in the interview that Valley Park’s ordinance, ultimately, looked very little like Hazleton’s.

Albertville, Ala. chose to do a bit of homework on Kobach, and it paid off. When Kobach arrived in the town in March 2010, he painted a bleak picture of its future: He said he’d been all over the country helping towns that were suffering from an influx of illegal immigrants. Albertville, he continued, was more afflicted than any he’d seen. He predicted it would collapse under the weight of the influx. Kobach said he could help them.

As he’d done in Valley Park, Kobach said, he would write an ordinance that would force the illegal immigrants to leave. “There are certain things that cities can do to deal with the burden that illegal immigration imposes on the taxpayers,” Kobach told municipal officials at a public meeting, a local paper reported. He dismissed concerns over potential legal challenges and their high costs. The American Civil Liberties Union, he said, had a track record of losing cases like these.

Albertville’s government was poised to hire Kobach until a city councilmember made a call to Valley Park. After hearing first-hand about the town’s experience, Albertville’s city council voted against bringing him on. “The advice I have gotten from towns which passed similar resolutions said they would not do it again,” councilman Randy Amos saidafter the vote.

Kobach says he warned the towns what they were getting into. “The elected representatives of the people made a decision with full awareness that fighting the ACLU costs money, that yeah, it was worth it to fight the ACLU and worth it to get these ordinances in place,” he said. “I believe in these cities and these ordinances and what they’re doing. And so if there was some way I could help them, I did.” Some of Kobach’s former clients — typically those most zealously opposed to immigration — speak highly of the work he did for them. “It was honestly an honor to work with the guy,” said former Valley Park city attorney Eric Martin.”He knew his subject matter and was very driven to get something passed.”

Phelps has a different view. “It was a sham,” he said of Kobach’s pitch, which ultimately ended in a resounding defeat for Farmers Branch. He “kept telling us, ‘We can win this. We’ll just keep appealing it,’ which I felt was very misleading,” said Phelps. “It was just a sad situation that we had to go through, and everybody now regrets it.”

In 2006, Hazleton’s then-mayor,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2018 at 12:42 pm

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