By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A special committee of the Pennsylvania Senate will begin a series of hearings on Monday on whether the Senate should remove Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office because of the indefinite suspension of her law license.
The hearings center on the state constitution's requirement that the elected attorney general should have a law license, as well as whether it allows the Republican-controlled Senate to directly remove officeholders through a two-thirds vote.
Kane, a Democrat, had her license suspended on Oct. 22 by order of the state Supreme Court in a ruling related to allegations that she leaked secret grand jury information. But in doing so, the court stressed that its decision should not be construed as effectively removing her from office.
Kane has said she can run the 700-employee attorney general’s office as a pure administrator, leaving the legal work to others.
Unlike impeachment, which requires indictment by the House and trial by the Senate, direct removal of a state officeholder only requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate after “a full hearing.” The procedure was last used in 1891.
Kane contends that the Republican-controlled committee has no authority under the constitution to remove her. She says she will not turn over documents and emails requested by the panel.
“It is clear that this Senate committee is subverting the process of impeachment and/or trial by jury and attempting direct removal based upon an administrative action that relied largely on newspaper articles,” Kane wrote on Friday in a six-page letter to John Gordner, chairman of the Senate committee.
Kane has not been asked to attend the hearing and will not send a representative, spokesman Chuck Ardo told Reuters on Sunday.
On Monday, the committee will hear from several county district attorneys on “issues” they have had in referring cases to the attorney general because of her license suspension.
(Reporting By Frank McGurty; Editing by Andrew Bolton)