- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Topeka Capital-Journal, March 28

Senate wrong not to open probable cause affidavits:

The Kansas Senate’s shameful treatment of proposed legislation that would have opened to public scrutiny the probable cause affidavits law enforcement officials and prosecutors use to obtain search and arrest warrants was a disservice to all Kansans.

Legislators earlier this session were given legitimate reasons for treating those affidavits as open records, and House members, to their credit, passed a bill that would do just that 113-10 before sending it along to the Senate. Once there, however, provisions addressing probable cause affidavits for arrest warrants were basically gutted by the Senate Judiciary Committee before Senate leaders decided the legislation, House Bill 2555, wouldn’t be debated on the Senate floor this year.

While it was still working the bill, the Senate committee weakened provisions related to affidavits for search warrants by requiring the public to petition the clerk of the court for the information 14 days after a search warrant was executed. The subjects of a search would have immediate access to the affidavit.

Sen. Greg Smith, R-Olathe, who offered amendments to the bill as passed by the House, said his experience as a police officer made him sympathetic to concerns law enforcement officials and prosecutors had about treating the affidavits as public records.

Therein lies the problem. The Fourth Amendment protects this country’s citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Without access to the probable cause affidavits used to obtain search and arrest warrants, citizens have no way of knowing whether the actions of law enforcement officials and prosecutors, and even the judges who sign off on the warrants, pass constitutional muster.

The Fourth Amendment wasn’t written to protect law enforcement officials and prosecutors. It was written to protect the citizens, who must have access and transparency.

Law enforcement officers have told legislators they fear release of the probable cause affidavits would lead to sensationalism and pre-trial publicity. Their fears, however, aren’t substantiated by the experiences of other states, almost all of which treat the affidavits as public records.

Keeping the records sealed only protects law enforcement officials and prosecutors from publicity about their mistakes.

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The Iola Register, March 31

Ultra-conservative trajectory could be behind exodus:

Kansas needs to roll out the welcome mat.

In the past three years more residents have left the state, compared to those who have moved here.

Story Continues →