Kansas Supreme Court sanctions former AG Kline

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2013 3:34 PM
Kansas Supreme Court sanctions former AG Kline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the law license of former state Attorney General Phill Kline on Friday, following allegations of ethical misconduct during his investigation of abortion providers.

The court agreed with a state disciplinary panel that Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, to further his investigations. The unanimous decision came after repeated disputes between the Republican and critics of his tactics.

Tom Condit, Kline's attorney, said Friday that Kline reasserted that he never intentionally lied or misled others in pursuit of his case. He and Kline were reviewing the ruling and considering their next steps, Condit said.

In 2007, Kline filed 107 criminal charges against a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburbs, accusing it of performing illegal abortions and falsifying records. The last of those charges were dropped in August 2012. He also pursued misdemeanor criminal charges against Dr. George Tiller because of late-term abortions performed by his Wichita clinic. The case was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons.

Kline began the investigations of both providers just months into his 2003-2007 term as attorney general. The clinics resisted his attempts to get information from patients' medical records, but eventually the courts allowed him access to edited documents.

Justices said Kline committed "significant and numerous" violations as an attorney while pursuing prosecutions as attorney general and district attorney in Johnson County.

"Kline's inability or refusal to acknowledge or address their significance is particularly troubling in light of his service as the chief prosecuting attorney for this State and its most populous county," the Supreme Court wrote.

Condit maintained that state disciplinary administrator Stan Hazlett and others built their case against Kline by taking out-of-context snippets of his statements over six years.

"If this is the standard of honesty in Kansas, there are a lot of attorneys who are going to be taking a long vacation," Condit said. "Fact finders are human and they can be wrong. In this case they are wrong."

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parents of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the ruling was a vindication of the organization's stance that Kline was on a "politically motivated witch hunt" in prosecuting abortion providers.

"It was an excellent example of him using any means to justify the ends in his mind," Brownlie said. "It should give persons in elected office or not pause about using such unethical tactics."

Kline's supporters said the ruling was evidence of collusion between the Supreme Court and former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now secretary of Health and Human Services.

"This is just another layer of icing on the Kansas Tiller/Sebelius late-term abortion corruption cake," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.

Brownlie said Sebelius had nothing to do with the ruling, adding "The only person who can be blamed for today's decision is Mr. Kline himself."

The Supreme Court said Kline could ask for his license to be reinstated after three years, but that any application would be reviewed by the court. The justices also could seek additional review by the state disciplinary panel for attorneys.

When Kline was the subject of an ethics investigation before the state's highest court last year, an appeals court attorney tweeted disparaging comments about Kline — and predicted he would be disbarred. The attorney, Sarah Peterson Herr, was suspended and later fired for her actions. She faces a state disciplinary hearing in December.

Kline was Johnson County district attorney in 2007 and 2008. He is now a visiting professor at Liberty University in Virginia.