At the March 18 Kansas Governmental Ethics meeting, the Commission passed a motion to make available the documentation from the Kris Van Meteren case from February to the Attorney General and the Shawnee County District Attorney. The information was to only be released if requested.
Ethics Commission chair, Sabrina Standifer, announced “… to clarify: to date we have not gotten notice of an appeal, but the time period is not up.” Less than three hours later the appeal was filed in Shawnee County District Court, and the General Counsel for the Ethics Commission, Judy Moler, was notified.
Van Meteren’s Petition for Judicial Review was filed by attorney Caleb Stegall in Shawnee County District Court, and gave these reasons for the Court to overrule the $7500 fine imposed by the Ethics Commission in February:
- The fine by the Ethics Commission violated his guarantee of free speech contained in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and
- his rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteen Amendments to the Constitution had been violated.
Stegall in a telephone interview today said the Ethics Commission’s action would have a “chilling effect” on free speech especially given their arbitrary enforcement. Stegall said freedom-loving people everywhere should be concerned by such a loss of freedom. Stegall indicated a remedy would be sought first in Kansas District Court, but would not rule out an appeal in Federal Court.
Van Meteren was also contacted by phone today and he expressed concern about the possible cost for this case. Van Meteren speculated that if appeals to Federal Courts were necessary, the cost might be as high as $250,000 to $500,000. He is researching various options in establishing a legal defense fund to help in his First Amendment fight.
Kansas Courts will need to explain why a private citizen, like Van Meteren, in a political matter appears to have fewer rights than in judicial ethics cases. Kansas Supreme Court Rule 607b for the Commission on Judicial Qualifications says:
The rule of confidentiality shall not apply to the complainant or to the respondent.
Here is Van Meteren’s Petition for Judicial Review filed in Shawnee County District Court:
- More Info on Van Meteren “Free Speech” Ethics Case, Kansas Meadowlark, Feb 27, 2009.
- “Free Speech” May Cost Kansas Citizen $7500, Kansas Meadowlark, Feb 18, 2009.
- First Amendment Defense Thorny Issue for Ethics Commission, Kansas Meadowlark, Jan 21, 2009.
- 1st Amendment Constitutional Right may become issue in Kansas Ethics Commission Hearing in January. Silence the accuser?, Kansas Meadowlark, Dec 17, 2008.
- Did Senator Umbarger violate ethics rules buying a carport with campaign money? Umbarger clairvoyant?, Kansas Meadowlark, Aug 7, 2008.