On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, KSHB 41 reported that the Kansas Commission on Judicial Conduct dismissed a complaint filed against a judge who approved a raid of a local newspaper.

The commission had been considering a complaint submitted in August by Keri Strahler against Magistrate Judge Laura Viar for her role in signing off on search warrants used in the raid of the Marion County Record. However, in a determination letter sent to Strahler on December 6, the commission said they did not find enough facts to establish a violation of the judicial code regarding Judge Viar’s approval of the warrants.

Strahler had argued in her complaint that Judge Viar did not properly consider state and federal laws protecting journalists, such as the Privacy Protection Act, which requires law enforcement to obtain a subpoena rather than a search warrant in most cases involving news organizations. Despite these concerns, the commission said Judge Viar was only given informal advice to thoroughly research all applicable laws when reviewing warrant requests in the future.

While the commission’s decision finding no misconduct is confidential, Strahler shared the determination letter with KSHB 41. In it, the commission acknowledged extensively discussing whether Judge Viar’s actions demonstrated incompetence but ultimately found the specific facts and circumstances did not clearly show her approval of the warrant crossed the line. At the same time, the letter stated the commission did not necessarily agree the search warrant itself was reasonably issued or legally justified.

 

Source: KSHB 41