Vol. 123, No. 37 A Newspaper of General Circulation September 14, 2020
 
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ACLU gives up on lawsuit against KCC lawyer
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on Sept. 7 dropped its lawsuit that accused a former lawyer for the state utilities regulating agency of filing a baseless, retaliatory complaint against two environmental activists.  
Last month, U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter gutted most of ACLU’s lawsuit by finding that the members of the Kansas Corporation Commission are immune from liability. That left former general counselor Dustin Kirk as the sole remaining defendant.  
A joint stipulation of dismissal was filed, with the parties agreeing to bear their own costs and fees.  
ACLU said it decided to voluntarily dismiss its claim against Kirk because they expected Teeter to also find Kirk entitled to immunity, as she had for Shari Albrecht, Susan Duffy, Dwight Keen, and Jay Emler – all current or former commissioners.  
“It does not make sense for us to waste our time and the court’s time when we know what the court will do with that particular claim,” said ACLU Legal Director Lauren Bonds.  
The lawsuit contended that Kirk filed a bogus consumer protection complaint in 2018 against activists Cindy Hoedel and Scott Yeargain. The complaint alleged they engaged in the unauthorized practice of law because they shared information and advice with other concerned citizens protesting injection well applications.  
Kirk left his job at the Kansas Corporation Commission that year and the agency has said it did not learn about his complaint to the Kansas attorney general’s office until after he was gone.  
Teeter noted in her Aug. 20 ruling that whether the commissioners’ suspicions were “correct or baseless or even retaliatory” is not relevant to the immunity issue. The court only considered whether their actions were related to their duties.  
Bonds said the ACLU has concerns about the conclusions that can be drawn from the judge’s decision – that anyone can be absolved of liability because of the function of their job. –AP  
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