Attorney General’s office dispenses with Sunshine Coalition’s KOMA complaint, now up to media organizations if they want to try in court

The Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government’s complaint against the Kansas Senate for ejecting journalists from its chambers on the final day of the 2019 legislative session in order to tamp down coverage of a protest in the Senate gallery has been dismissed by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.

“Our Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press are not something that can be addressed through the Open Meetings Act,” said Ron Keefover with the Sunshine Coalition. “We still think there has been a miscarriage of justice in this matter.”

The Sunshine Coalition is not equipped to fight this matter from a financial standpoint in court on Constitutional grounds, so it falls to the organizations whose reporters were removed to decide if this is
worth the money to fight.

“A media outlet would probably be the correct plaintiff in an action to challenge their removal under the First Amendment,” said Keefover. “Again, what are the damages that were incurred by the media representatives, if any? Once you get a decision, how compelling will that be in future decisions?”

The chambers of the Legislature, both the Senate and the House, have broad powers to set their own rules.

“In this situation, they followed the Open Meetings Act generally, but, when it comes time to directing their Sergeant at Arms to close the doors, their rules give them pretty much unlimited authority.”

There has been no word at this point as to whether any media organizations will make a Constitutional claim in court in regard to the incident.