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Lawrence Journal-World, Oct. 29

Open records:

Based on a new Kansas law, prosecutors and judges no longer can routinely withhold from the public affidavits that detail the justification for searches and arrests in the state.

The change will require some adjustment by law enforcement and courts across the state, including those in Douglas County, but closing affidavits simply because attorneys agree it is a good idea no longer is an option.

Before the law was passed, Kansas was the only state in the nation that automatically sealed these affidavits. The legislation moved forward this year on the heels of a particularly egregious case in which a Leawood couple was denied access to the affidavit that led to what turned out to be an unjustified raid of their residence.

The law requires that arrest warrants and supporting testimony be made available to the public after arraignment in misdemeanor cases and after a preliminary hearing and arraignment in felony cases. Search warrant affidavits must be made available to the subject of the search immediately and to the public within 14 days of the search. After a request for an affidavit is made, the court has up to 10 days to release or withhold an affidavit, which can be redacted to withhold names or information that could damage an ongoing investigation.

Affidavits can be closed entirely, but that now is the exception, not the rule. According to the law, the documents can be closed only if the court finds that releasing them would cause harm to the legal proceeding.

As Rep. John Rubin, a primary sponsor for the law told the Journal-World, "Affidavits can only be sealed for specific reasons, not just because the prosecution and defense ask for it."

Rubin was referring specifically to two cases in which Douglas County district judges sealed arrest warrants for three men charged with rape. The judges' decisions are being challenged by the Journal-World.

Defense and prosecuting attorneys in one of the cases sought the closure for a variety of reasons, none of which conformed to the spirit or the letter of the law, Rubin said. The prosecutor in the case argued that the affidavit should be closed because it "is basically like my entire case ... and I think that the risk to my case far outweighs the benefit to the public's right to know."

Probably not. Protecting the public's right to monitor the actions of its law enforcement and court officials is at the heart of the new law. Affidavits can be redacted or perhaps written in a way that doesn't disclose as much information, but they can't routinely be closed to the public.

Leaders in the Kansas Legislature and the state news media worked long and hard to pass this law and open affidavits to the public. Courts and attorneys need to accept the new law and change the way they view and handle these records.


Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov. 3

Kansas City World Series run was welcome relief from worldly troubles

The last inning of a long baseball season didn't end as the Kansas City Royals and their fans, new and old, would have liked, but in addition to packing a multitude of thrills into 15 post-season games, the Royals also get credit here for giving those who follow the team something to take their thoughts briefly away from more troubling issues.

Beyond the sports pages and broadcasts, news reports through the summer and fall have been dominated by issues much weightier — and of more significance to our country and its citizens — than baseball.

There was little respite from the long political campaign season, although we suspect the vast majority of voters knew a long time ago for whom they would cast a ballot. Thankfully, with the election a day away, that noisy season is about to end.

Other issues live on. Fears that the Ebola virus will jump the ocean and reach our shores in earnest captured the country's attention last month, and still hold it. The threat posed by the Islamic State's radicals must be taken seriously by all freedom-loving people, and the United States again is launching airstrikes against Iraq — and also its neighbor, Syria — in support of more rational, but overwhelmed, forces.

Closer to home, different agencies within the federal government appeared determined to trip all over themselves in an effort to dispel any myths about their competence. Even the vaunted Secret Service lost some luster when reports of its recent ineptitude in protecting the president became public.

Into all that, the Royals managed to inject a month of great joy and wonder that allowed their fans everywhere to escape for a while and turn their attention to the delightful, if frustrating, game of baseball — America's game.

An eight-game winning streak led the team to the World Series, a mountain that seemed so out of reach on more than one occasion during the regular season. The season's goal for the team, and its fans, had been postseason play. Beyond that, it was all gravy, and the Royals served up a huge helping by taking the World Series to seven games.

That it didn't end the way people in this part of the country wanted it to end was a sad pill, but not a bitter one.

This year, the thrills provided were enough, and they came when a lot of thrills were just what we needed.

Thanks, Royals.

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