Anti-Abortion Attorney General Stripped of Law License
The Kansas Supreme Court has unanimously voted to indefinitely suspend the law license of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline for ethical misconduct in his prosecution of abortion providers.
Although the state’s legal disciplinary administrator recommended that Kline be disbarred, the high court found that indefinite suspension was the “appropriate discipline.” Kline can reapply for his license after three years, but the Supreme Court must give its blessing.
Tom Condit, Kline’s attorney, told Lawyers.com that Kline planned to officially object to his suspension but didn’t specify how.
“We’ll be filing something,” Condit said.
The Supreme Court said Kline ignored “the line between overzealous advocacy and operating within the bounds of the law” by pursuing charges against Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller and a Planned Parenthood clinic near Kansas City.
Kline filed criminal charges against Tiller near the end of his term as Attorney General and later filed 107 criminal charges against the Planned Parenthood clinic as the district attorney for Johnson County. All of those charges were ultimately dismissed.
Condit said Kline was investigating Planned Parenthood for “failing to report incidents of child sexual abuse” and Tiller for “illegal late term abortions by the dozens.”
“This was the first guy ever who was going to prosecute the abortion industry for crimes,” Condit said.
But the Supreme Court found that in that process, Kline attached sealed documents to a publicly filed brief, filed misleading court documents and gave false court testimony.
“The violations we have found are significant and numerous, and 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 court wrote.
Five Justices Recuse Themselves
In an unprecedented move, five of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices voluntarily recused themselves from Kline’s disciplinary case, citing their previous involvement with cases that were central to the ethics complaint.
Condit and Kline had previously filed a detailed recusal motion suggesting the five justices were biased against him. Their argument was based in part on a 2008 majority opinion written by Justice Carol Beier and joined by the other four justices. Condit said the opinion “made [Kline] look like the biggest dirty rotten scoundrel” and it was “odd and convenient” that his recusal motion was never mentioned by the justices who stepped aside.
Condit also claims the deck was stacked against Kline because two of the three lawyers on Kline’s ethics panel at the Kansas Board of Discipline for Attorneys had donated to Kline’s political opponents.
“They couldn’t find three lawyers who were neutral to hear this case?” Condit asked.
Just or Unjust?
Condit said that in spite of a conservative legislature that has passed abortion restrictions including mandatory ultrasounds, counseling and waiting periods, the political climate in Kansas made Kline a target because of his anti-abortion stance. He called former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was governor throughout Kline’s term as attorney general and a staunch supporter of the opponent who unseated him, “the high priestess of abortion in Kansas.”
“Even the pro-abortion people really didn’t want to be associated with these late term abortionists, and here Kathleen Sebelius was letting people take pictures of her dancing with George Tiller,” Condit said. “We had a governor who was a wild woman when it comes to abortion, compounded by a radically pro-abortion Kansas press.”
One of Kline’s critics in the press, Yael T. Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star, wrote that Kline’s discipline was “deserved disgrace” and that he “basically harassed women seeking legal abortions in Kansas — and medical personnel who provided those abortions.”
As for Kline’s prosecutorial targets, Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the removal of Kline’s law license “completes our vindication.”
“Planned Parenthood said throughout this long ordeal Mr. Kline was pursuing a political witch hunt based on his ideological and political views, not the law,” Brownlie said. “Today’s unanimous decision confirms we were right.”
Tiller didn’t live to share in the vindication; he was assassinated in 2009 by pro-life activist Scott Roeder while handing out programs at his local church.
Do you think Kline’s conduct justified his indefinite suspension from law? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below.