Judge who signed off on Marion Co. Record warrant has DUI history

Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 11:21 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Days after law enforcement raided the Marion County Record, 12 News learned that the judge who signed off on the warrant has a criminal history.

Eighth Judicial District Magistrate Judge Laura Viar has two DUI arrests on her record. Both incidents happened in 2012 in Morris and Coffey counties. Viar, who went by Laura Allen at the time, was put on diversion for an arrest in Coffey County. Seven months later, she was arrested again for a DUI in Morris County while she was the county attorney. Viar (Allen) was not supposed to be driving since her license had been suspended for the first arrest.

According to a 2012 story published by WIBW, Viar (Allen) drove off the road and crashed into a school building while driving a then-8th district magistrate judge’s vehicle.

The warrant Viar signed off on for the Marion Police Department focused on a claim by a local business owner that the Marion County Record obtained personal information about her illegally and gave it to the vice mayor.

Owner and editor Eric Meyer said the court document meant to support the now-withdrawn search warrant refutes most of the police department’s claims. And, he said it was filed three days after the judge approved it.

Meyer said that the probable cause affidavit states that the vice mayor got the information from the same source as the newspaper. He said that it was the Record that notified Police Chief Gideon Cody about what it had found.

“My mind right now is we’re not gonna change a thing about what we do because we didn’t do anything wrong. And we may have done something right. In some cases,” said Meyer. “If somebody wants to bully you, it must mean that they don’t want you to have something. We don’t know what it is, but that makes you even want it more.”

The question remains whether Viar’s history had an impact on obtaining the search warrant.

Jeffrey Jackson, the Interim Dean at Washburn Law School said he doesn’t think so.

“With search warrant validity, we don’t really look at well, the judge might have had ulterior, right? The question is just is there enough information there for probable cause or is there not?” said Jackson.

But, to search a newsroom, he said the probable cause is different.

“I think it’s important to understand that in situations like this, in fact, the threshold for probable cause is higher,” Jackson said. “The search warrant in order to be effective, must be framed with scrupulous exactitude.”

Jackson said law enforcement should not be given a general warrant to go out and search for a crime. In the case of the raid on the Marion County Record, he believes that’s what happened.

“It is incumbent on the judge to actually do some research to realize that we treat these things differently obviously. But as I said, it’s very unusual, it doesn’t happen,” said Jackson.

As far as those DUIs on the judge’s record, Dean Jackson said if she did not disclose the DUIs to the nominating committee who appointed her, there is a case for judicial misconduct with possible discipline.