Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Kansas’ Kobach Under Renewed Fire for Ethics, Voter Fraud Commission

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

Kansas' Secretary of State has cried wolf on voter fraud, alleging massive violations that didn't happen. Now, he's going to have an answer an another lawsuit and perhaps a ethics investigation.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Keri Strahler, a 47-year-old Washburn University student, prompted the Kansas Supreme Court’s Office of the Disciplinary Administrator to open an investigation into Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Strahler’s complaint said that there were “ethical questions surrounding Mr. Kobach’s behavior as an attorney,” citing news reports regarding his failure to respond to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit in a timely manner and a fine levied against him for misleading a court about a document he took to a meeting with President Donald Trump.

Last week, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit challenging Trump and Kobach’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The lawsuit alleges that the commission is a sham effort to bolster Trump’s false claims that 3 to 5 million illegal votes shaped last year’s election. That makes seven federal lawsuits challenging the voter fraud commission, not to mention state-level challenges filed in Idaho, Indiana, and New Hampshire.

Anti-LGBTQ  group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four students in Pennsylvania’s Boyertown Area School District. The suit alleges that the school district’s transgender locker room policy, which permits trans students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, violates student privacy and amounts to sexual harassment. They claim the policy violates the four young people’s right not to undress in front of someone of the opposite sex. Now, keep in mind that a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling—which is not binding precedent in Pennsylvania—has said “a transgender student’s presence in the restroom provides no more of a risk to other students’ privacy rights than the presence of an overly curious student of the same biological sex who decides to sneak glances at his or her classmates performing their bodily functions.”

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has been on a West Coast tour of sorts. At a San Francisco conference of the Ninth Circuit’s federal courts last week, he got an earful from a teen whose award-winning essay compared the Muslim ban to Japanese internment during World War II. And, today, he was welcoming new immigrants after an naturalization ceremony in the California city. He talked about how listening and reasoning are central to the “cacophony of democracy.” But from what we can tell, he didn’t volunteer the information that he favored reinstating Trump’s Muslim ban in its entirety.

Rico LeBlond’s retrial for the 2015 murder of Zella Ziona, a 21-year-old transgender woman, is scheduled to start today. In January, a Maryland jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors contend that LeBlond was embarrassed when Ziona flirted with him in front of his male friends and shot her in the head.

Adam Liptak writes for the New York Times that Lambda Legal is looking for one more gay rights victory before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, retires. The LGBTQ rights organization is asking the court to rule that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against gay and lesbian workers in a case called Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. A ruling in its favor would mean that Title VII—which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, and other identities—would also prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. And that’s something courts have been resisting—until recently.

Last week, David Rodriguez of Miami filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Procter & Gamble Co., saying the corporation has discriminated against him due to his immigration status. Rodriguez represents a class of people “who are legally authorized to work in the United States, but who were denied the right to work because they are not citizens, permanent residents (“green card” holders), refugees, or individuals granted asylum.” Rodriguez, a Venezuelan national who came to the United States as a 10-year-old, was denied an internship at the company, though he was granted to the right to work in the United States through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He claims that the denial of the right to make and enforce work contracts constitutes discrimination on the basis of citizenship status in violation of federal law.

The Catholic New Agency reports that David Daleiden plans to appeal the $136,000 contempt fine he faces in his litigation battle with National Abortion Federation over videos he released in connection with his ongoing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. #TeamLegal has a two-year anniversary retrospective in case you want to bone up on the fake “baby parts” scandal that has largely fizzled and died.

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