Eagle editorial: Unseal probable-cause affidavits

02/26/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

Good for the House Judiciary Committee for advancing a bill that would unseal affidavits used by police to justify arrest warrants. Now the full House and then the Senate should approve the measure.

Probable-cause affidavits are open in nearly every state in the nation. But not in Kansas. As a result, the public can’t learn the legal basis for an arrest warrant.

Some prosecutors worry that opening these affidavits might create problems, but that hasn’t been the case in other states. Keeping these documents secret in Kansas is unnecessary and wrong.

The bill would also unseal affidavits used to justify search warrants, though it would open them only to the parties involved. These affidavits should be open to all citizens, as they are public documents, but at least this is a positive step toward openness.

Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, a former federal judge, argued correctly that opening these documents is “in the interest of public accountability and transparency” and that “prosecutors and law enforcement should be held to the same standard as all other government officials and employees.”

Many other state lawmakers also say they believe in transparency and accountability in government. Approving House Bill 2555 would demonstrate it.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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