Raid provokes legislative action
Kansas House minority leader Vic Miller and District 102 Rep. Jason Probst introduced legislation Tuesday stemming directly from an illegal Aug. 11 raid on the Marion County Record.
They have asked for legislation to be written that would prevent magistrates from signing search warrants.
“Nobody’s rights should be violated in that way,” Miller’s communications director, Alexis Simmons, said. “In the words of leader Miller, they are trying to stir the pot a little bit.”
Miller, an attorney since 1979, and Probst, former editor of the Hutchinson News, who maintains an online blog in which he has written about the raid on the Record, both said they wanted conversation about the event to continue.
Simmons said Miller and Probst thought what they were asking was a fairly simple and direct change to the law.
“It’s one small step today,” Miller said. “We don’t expect to fix the problem.”
Miller said the Marion incident had been on his mind since he heard what had happened.
“From the moment I heard that this had occurred, I tried to put my thinking cap on and come up with what we could do to try to prevent this from ever happening again,” he said.
The legislature needs to take action, Probst said. He doesn’t want what happened in Marion to slip by without something being done about it.
“This is a really important thing,” he said.
If search warrants are not being deployed properly, the legislature needs to figure out how that can be done better, he said.
“We’re talking about what we can do to ensure the right of a free press is not being abridged,” he said. “The press is an extension of the public.”
In a press release, Simmons wrote that the bill is aimed at prohibiting magistrate judges from authorizing search warrants “following the disturbing police raid on the Marion County Record. A magistrate judge signed the search warrant used to raid the newspaper.”
Magistrates have a lower threshold for legal education, Probst said.
“What happened in Marion County is frightening,” Miller said. “We can’t lose sight of the consequences here.”
“Because the Kansas Legislature is adjourned until January, a concerted effort must be made not to forget the startling and dire implications of the situation,” Simmons wrote.
“The ability of the press to operate freely and without fear of reprisal is foundational to a functioning democracy — and its importance is enshrined in our Constitution,” Probst said. “During my time as a journalist, I saw warrants signed without any real judicial oversight — and that’s something we all should be concerned about. I also saw the good that can be created in a community when a free and independent press can do its work without fear.”