Kansas board backs indefinite suspension for Phill Kline

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<a href='http://www.kansascity.com/2011/10/13/3206427/disciplinary-board-says-phill.html' target='_blank'>Appeared here</a>
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A professional ethics panel is recommending that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline should have his state law license suspended over his conduct during investigations of abortion providers. photo - Travis Heying
A Kansas disciplinary panel said Thursday that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline should be indefinitely suspended from practicing law in the state because of the “dishonest and selfish” way he pursued abortion clinics.

The recommendation of the attorney disciplinary board culminates a turbulent six-year period in which Kline — as attorney general and later Johnson County district attorney — presided over investigations of the late George Tiller’s abortion clinic in Wichita and Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.

The recommendation goes to the Kansas Supreme Court, which will make the final decision. Kline can challenge the panel’s findings.

Kline said Thursday that he had no regrets about his actions.

“I upheld my duty, upheld my oath of office and the integrity of my profession,” Kline said in a statement.

In the 184-page report, the panel concluded that Kline “repeatedly violated many of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, including the most serious of the rules, the rules that prohibit engaging in false or dishonest conduct.”

“Further, (Kline) caused potential injury to the public.”

The report said Kline provided false or deceptive information to the courts and even the disciplinary panel.

Kline is now a law professor at Liberty University in Virginia, so it wasn’t clear what practical effect the findings will have. His Kansas license has lapsed, and Kline has signaled that he doesn’t intend to practice law in Kansas again.

In his statement, Kline suggested that he was paying a price for conducting an honest investigation.

“My ‘mistake’ was my willingness to investigate politically powerful people and to let that investigation go where the evidence led,” Kline said.

“It is a decision, however, I would repeat and I will continue to speak and stand for the truth and for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Kline had been accused of misleading judges and mishandling evidence as he investigated abortion clinics. The ethics complaint alleged that he:

•Told the Supreme Court that his investigation wasn’t seeking the identities of specific women who received abortions at the late George Tiller’s clinic. But in 2005, investigators alleged, Kline’s staff recorded the license plates of visitors to Tiller’s clinic and subpoenaed the guest list from a hotel frequently used by patients.

“Statements made by (Kline), under oath, that his office never sought to identify the names of abortion patients are false,” the report said.

•Ignored warnings by the court not to talk about the case when he discussed it on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show. The panel found that Kline’s comments on the show didn’t serve a “legitimate law enforcement purpose” and had a substantial likelihood of intensifying public contempt for Tiller.

•Mishandled redacted medical files obtained from Tiller’s office by storing them in an open garage, a private vehicle and the dining room of an investigator. The complaint also criticized Kline’s staff for copying the records at a Topeka Kinko’s on Kline’s last day as attorney general.

The disciplinary panel didn’t think that storing the records in the aide’s apartment violated the rules of professional conduct, but it did take exception to statements that Kline made about them being kept “under lock and key.”

“The redacted medical records were not kept under lock and key,” the panel wrote. “For five weeks, the redacted medical records were kept in a Rubbermaid container.”

•Selectively presented information to a Johnson County grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood. The panel said that neither Kline nor his assistant provided the relevant law the grand jury needed.

•Relied on data that his staff knew to be flawed to justify the inquiry before a judge. On this count, the panel said there wasn’t clear evidence to show that Kline violated the professional conduct code.

Kline, meanwhile, has accused the abortion providers of violating state law and covering for pedophiles by not reporting pregnancies of underage girls.

He sought medical records of former patients to prove his case. In his formal response to the complaint, Kline denied wrongdoing and said his actions were consistent with traditional investigative methods.

Indeed, an internal report by the disciplinary administrator’s investigators seemed to clear Kline. The 2008 report was prepared by a Topeka attorney tasked by the disciplinary administrator with reviewing the evidence against Kline. “… it is the opinion of these investigators that there is not probable cause to prove that Phill Kline violated any of the rules of ethics,” the report said.

Kline is regarded highly by many anti-abortion groups, who believe he was being judged for his anti-abortion views. From the outset, they had little doubt the panel would recommend against Kline.

“It’s unfortunate they decided how they have,” Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said Thursday.

“This is a court and a disciplinary administrator that demonstrated repeatedly that they don’t like Mr. Kline and they don’t like anybody enforcing the state’s abortion laws.”

To demonstrate that Kline was on the right track, his supporters have pointed to a complaint pending before the State Board of Healing Arts that accuses Ann Kristin Neuhaus of negligence in examining the mental health of 11 patients from age 10 to 18 who received abortions after the 25th week of pregnancy at Tiller’s clinic.

Kansas law required Tiller to get a second opinion before performing each procedure.

The clinic terminated the girls’ pregnancies in 2003 after Neuhaus told Tiller that, without an abortion, the patients faced “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major physical or mental function.”

One 15-year-old girl wanted to be a professional barrel-racer and saw the chance disappearing when she got pregnant.

“This whole thing was designed to hide the facts that are coming out in the Neuhaus hearing,” Culp said Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  Appeared here
  Filed Under: Abuse of authority, Amendment 4th, Fear of/Retaliation, Lying/FRAUD, mis-conduct Attorney / Bar, mis-conduct Fed/St/local Agency, mis-conduct Political, Perjury/suborning/false stmnts
Related Stories
Fox News 08/03/2012 26 charges against Kansas abortion clinic dismissed
Kansas City.com 11/16/2010 Phill Kline’s law license suspended again
Kansas City.com 01/19/2010 Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline faces ethics complaint
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