This episode of Radio Active Magazine features Craig Lubow interviewing Sharon Brett, the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas about their concerns and current litigation. Ms. Brett formerly served on the Law faculty at Harvard and as a trial attorney at the Civil Rights division of the US Department of Justice. In addition to her current ACLU work, she teaches in the Law school and the school of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas.
Her current ACLU work includes several cases, including but not limited to the following:
- The City and Police Chief are being sued for maintaining a “secret” list of gang members, who seem to have been deprived of access to jobs, housing, etc., without due process of law. The fact that they are on this list has been used against them in in criminal prosecution, resulting in enhanced sentencing. One man was released on probation, then arrested for a probation violation for attending his brother’s funeral, which was also attended by others on that list. In another case, a grandfather is on that list for a crime committed in his 20s. He has served his time and is now way beyond that. However, he can not associate with his school friends, because some of the presumably are on that list. The police claim that only they have access to that list, but a journalist for the Wichita Eagle reported that a certain individual was on that list, which suggests that the reporter got access to that list in violation of the claims of the Wichita police. The official defendants in this case are the City of Wichita, their Chief of Police, and the police lieutenant who maintains this list. They hope to overturn the Kansas statute that allows the city to maintain this list.
- The Kansas ACLU is also suing the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP). They seem to be targeting people with out of state license plates for enhanced surveillance and lengthy and intrusive search, presumably for marijuana purchased in Colorado and carried through Kansas, though the facts are as yet unclear. They are stopped for a minor traffic violation, then forced to wait “voluntarily” for 30 or 40 minutes while a Canine unit is dispatched to the scene, so the dog can sniff for marijuana. If the dog indicates the presence of marijuana, the KHP then has probable cause to officially search the car for drugs. The ACLU claims these stops with these extended waits are NOT consensual and violent the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.
- In another case, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab is refusing to turn over provisional ballots requested by Davis Hammitt, President of Loud Light. Mr. Hammitt is concerned that Kansas may be engaged in voter suppression. The courts have twice ruled that the Kansas Secretary of State’s office must provide copies of those record to Mr. Hammitt. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office is now claiming they no longer have the ability to access those records for a more recent election, apparently because they’ve subcontracted maintenance of those records and told the subcontractor that Kansas does not want the ability to retrieve such records. The ACLU is arguing that Mr. Schwab cannot deny a Freedom of Information Act request in this way.
- Mr. Lubow asked Ms. Brett about abortions in Kansas, which are legal under the current state constitution. The Republican legislature is placing a constitutional amendment on a ballot for next year to allow them to restrict abortions. Ms. Brett refused to comment on what the Kansas ACLU might do with that.