Did you ever go bowling with someone who picked up his ball out of the rack and slammed it into his own head four or five times before walking down the lane and knocking over all the pins with a head-first Mark Spitz butterfly demonstration under the pinspotter?
Of course you didn’t. Unless you were making a bowling movie with Jerry Lewis.
Because 1) almost no one is that stupid; 2) you would feel ridiculous and embarrassed bowling with someone who did that; and 3) someone that dumb most likely has a reputation for stupidity and generally would be banned from your bowling alley. But in the clown show revealed in recent months to be masquerading as the Douglas County prosecutor’s office, such antics are prized and may even be prerequisites for being hired – and God forbid – elected to head up the joint.
Only a true clown, afterall – or a pseudo-lawyer with the memory of a goldfish – would make up some ridiculous schoolyard attack against a Kansas newspaper in an effort to deny access to a public record so soon after the recent press censorship meteor impact out at Marion, Kansas.
But surprise – that’s exactly what deputy district attorney for Douglas County Joshua Seiden did earlier this month when he protested – in writing, no less – a request by the Lawrence Journal World for a copy of a probable cause affidavit in the arrest of a suspect in a stabbing that happened up by Lawrence’s Kaw River Hobo Jungle. Seiden told a district court judge she should ignore the state law that requires those affidavits be made available to the public – not just to newspapers, mind you, but to any Tom, Dick or Harry who might request to see them just like the law says – because he doesn’t like the way the newspaper’s ink rubs off on his fingers.
“While the Lawrence Journal-World may claim that it requests this information because it is in the public interest, the sad reality is that the Lawrence Journal-World is a fledgling publication devoid of journalist integrity and constantly on the prowl for potential clickbait,” Seiden huffed to the judge, his wower wip pooched out in anger.
To her credit, the judge in the case lined Seiden out with a pre-law primer that, yes, state law actually does apply in Douglas County, and that his disrespect for the law, open government and the practice of journalism – was “disconcerting.” Her only failure was in not defining the word “fledgling” for him.
Let’s hope there’s a vaccine for the recent pandemic of stupidity infecting the Kansas legal profession. Seiden’s boss, Douglas County DA Susan Valdez, professed several months ago Kansas’ recently-passed “Women’s Bill of Rights” had no bearing in Douglas County and that she would not charge criminal complaints brought under it. Valdez believes no pesky law passed by a duly elected legislature should interfere with the rich Free State tradition of allowing boys to perv on your daughter in the women’s restroom.
Nor does Valdez believe any mere white dude ought to be giving orders about how the local court operates, even if he (italic) is (end italic) DGCO Chief Judge James McCabria, whose job is to give orders about how the local court operates. Valdez had barely taken office in January 2021 when she called McCabria a sexist and a liar because he ordered Covid-era jury trials to take place at the Douglas County Fairgrounds to allow for social distancing. The dust up ended up with a formal disciplinary complaint against Valdez, brought on of course not because she’s an incompetent, unprofessional, bipolar entitled child, but due to sexism and racism.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. We were TOLD, not consulted. The only reason you commented is because I am a Hispanic female (in) a position of power. … I will shine the light of truth on everything,” Valdez said in text messages quoted by the Lawrence Times website. Hope she doesn’t need to request a probable cause affidavit to shine that “light of truth.”
The ignorance and disdain for the law shown lately by Kansas courts and prosecutors is really no laughing matter. Are Kansas law schools skipping the chapters on open records and free speech altogether? The judge and police chief in Marion who conjured the ridiculous search warrants that eventually caused the death of the publisher’s mother clearly had no idea what they were doing or simply didn’t care. Kansas court proceedings shouldn’t look like a bowling alley where Lewis is reaching for a 16-pounder.
For the public’s sake let’s hope competent prosecutors and judges are the rule not the exception, and Kansas can pick up the spare.
Dane Hicks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He is the author of novels "The Skinning Tree" and "A Whisper For Help." As publisher of the Anderson County Review in Garnett, KS., he is a recipient of the Kansas Press Association's Boyd Community Service Award as well as more than 60 awards for excellence in news, editorial and photography.