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Noonletter: Sept. 25, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Big Brother lawsuit in Leavenworth goes class action

What a client, even one in jail, tells an attorney is private. 

Except that at the Leavenworth Detention Center a growing number of lawyers contend that private prison company CoreCivic and its phone and recording contractor, Securus Technologies, broke the law by intercepting those conversations.

That would violate federal and state wiretap laws and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (If you can’t talk to your attorney privately, the argument goes, you’re not getting a fair shot at legal representation.)

Last week, a federal judge cleared the way for a class action case because it “would be judicially uneconomical for the Court to entertain hundreds, if not thousands, of individualized claims” over the same issue. The move also gives the plaintiffs more leverage by combining their efforts and it increases the potential liability for the private prison folks they’re suing.

Dan Margolies has been tracking the story and reports that the number of parties in the class action case could reach as many as 1,000 attorneys.

It’s the second class-action lawsuit spawned by disclosures that privileged attorney-client phone calls and meetings were recorded at the Leavenworth facility. The other case was filed on behalf of detainees and is in the midst of settlement negotiations. 

Bomber biz

The B-52 first took flight in the early 1950s. It’s still a workhorse warplane. That’s largely because American bombs have gotten ever smarter and often all the Air Force needs to blast something to smithereens is a big ol’ delivery vehicle.

So keeping those behemoth bombers air-ready is an ongoing business.

That's why Spirit AeroSystems, a spinoff of Boeing in Wichita, is looking to get in on some defense contracts that would keep the planes flying through the middle of this century. The Wichita Eagle reports that Spirit is angling for work replacing part of the Air Force’s B-52 fleet.

An economy as flat as Kansas

The Kansas economy saw no overall growth between 2016 and 2017, but Nomin Ujiyediin tells us that new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed a few metro areas — Kansas City, Manhattan and Lawrence — grew between one and two percent.

Wichita, on the other hand, saw its economy shrink by 1.4 percent.

The state’s economy suffers partly from a low unemployment rate and a corresponding shortage of workers.

Here’s money, now read

The feds are sending $27 million to Kansas to improve child literacy, including those still too young for school.

The Kansas State Department of Education is working with the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas to put the latest reading research into practice for toddlers to 12th graders.

The money will be split among 32 school districts. KCUR’s education reporter Elle Moxley has more.

When politicians think they’re funny

Last week it was Democrat James Thompson using Twitter to toss a poop joke at his opponent in the Wichita-centered 4th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Ron Estes.

This week brings further evidence that candidates, by and large, should resign themselves to being the butt of jokes. Seriously, even his backers gotta groan at Estes’ effort to imagine ice cream flavors to put down the other guy. Almost makes one lactose intolerant.

When politicians (allegedly) play too nice together

Here’s the rule. Candidates for federal office have their own campaign funds. Parties have their own campaign funds. And other, independent groups can raise their own money. But the rules on how money can be legally raised are different for each.

So if two or more of those outfits work together, that’s an illegal workaround of federal election law.

On Tuesday, the Kansas Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission suggesting that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, skirted the rules by teaming its efforts with the Kansas Republican Party to help incumbent Kevin Yoder in the 3rd Congressional District.

The charge turns on the appearance of Alana Zimmer-Roethle in a CLF television ad attacking Democrat Sharice Davids.  Zimmer-Roethle is secretary of the Kansas Republican Party.

Complaints about the bending and breaking of federal campaign laws are common. Significant penalties by the FEC are not.

Pick ’em

Here’s where polling geeks FiveThirtyEight.com stand today on Kansas U.S. House races:

  • Yoder v. Davids in the Kansas City area  — toss up
  • Steve Watkins v. Paul Davis in the district covering Topeka, Lawrence and much of eastern Kansas — toss up
  • Estes v. Thompson in the Wichita area — 5 in 6 chance that Estes keeps the seat Republican
  • Republican Roger Marshall v. Alan LaPolice in the sprawling western Kansas district — 99 percent chance Marshall wins and it stays Republican

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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