Kansas lawmakers call for action on heels of controversial newspaper raid
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A group of Kansas lawmakers are calling for changes to state policy regarding search warrants.
Prompted by the recent searches conducted at the Marion County Record newspaper, Democrats from the Kansas House are proposing new policy to prevent such circumstances from occurring again.
“My first reaction was ‘How could that happen?,’” House Minority Leader Rep. Vic Miller said. “My second reaction was ‘What can we do to make sure that does not happen again?’ because it is intolerable that it ever occurred. It will have some lasting damage as it relates to chilling what we all believe in as a free press.”
Rep. Miller says he plans to draft a bill requiring any search warrant be signed by a district judge, prohibiting magistrate judges from doing so. In Kansas, magistrate judges do not have to be lawyers and have limited jurisdiction.
Miller says his initial efforts won’t solve the problem, but will keep the story alive until the Legislature goes into session.
“I’m trying to stir the pot,” said Rep. Miller. “What happened in Marion County is frightening. We can’t lose sight of the consequences here.”
Rep. Jason Probst spent 15 years at Hutchinson News. He says he witnessed search warrants be authorized with little to no consideration for the consequences.
“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,” Rep. 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.”
The Kansas Legislature won’t go into session until January 8, 2024.
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