HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane's law license will remain suspended after the state's highest court on Friday denied her request to have it reinstated while she fights criminal charges of leaking secret grand jury material and lying about it.
The court's unanimous rejection could pave the way to an unprecedented vote in the state Senate on whether to remove her from office.
A Kane spokesman said the first-term Democrat was disappointed, but not surprised.
A Senate vote could happen in the coming weeks after a special committee spent about three months exploring the question of whether Kane could run the 800-employee law enforcement office without a law license. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said senators will discuss the matter when they reconvene in the Capitol next week.
"It's an important issue," Corman said. "It's really unprecedented, so I think it deserves to be addressed."
In seeking to have her license reinstated, Kane argued that Justice Michael Eakin should not have participated in the suspension vote because of his involvement in a salacious email scandal.
In its one-page order, the Democrat-controlled court said Kane did not seek the recusal of Eakin "at the earliest possible time." As a result, the justices said, Kane gave up her ability to object on that basis to the court's unanimous decision in September to suspend her license.
Kane has released hundreds of emails, including some that Eakin sent and received through a private email account in the name of John Smith. Eakin, a Republican, has been suspended with pay by his fellow justices while he awaits trial before an ethics court that could result in his being kicked off the bench.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel had argued against lifting Kane's license suspension, telling the justices in a filing last month that she waited too long, and that Eakin did not cast the deciding vote in the 5-0 decision in September.
Kane faces perjury and other charges in Montgomery County, with trial currently scheduled for August.
The Special Committee on Senate Address voted along party lines last month to hold a floor vote on whether to remove Kane from office if the court denied her request. All four Republicans were in favor and all three Democrats voted "no."
Kane has argued that the Senate's process is not legal, saying the chamber can't kick her out of the elected job unless the House first acts to impeach her.
The House also has begun exploring whether to begin an impeachment process. Leaders said that may be taken up in the coming week.
Sen. Jay Costa of Allegheny County, the Democratic floor leader, said the impeachment process under consideration in the House was "probably the more appropriate route to go," but said his members would talk over the Senate removal proposal next week.
Kane, 49, has said she wants to seek re-election this year, but she will face stiff opposition from at least three other Democratic candidates in the primary.