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Ethics Panel Recommends Permanent Suspension of Former Kan. AG's Law License

Ethics Panel Recommends Permanent Suspension of Former Kan. AG's Law License

October 14, 2011 — On Thursday, a three-member panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys recommended that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline have his state law license indefinitely suspended because of his conduct during investigations of abortion providers, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 10/13).

The panel's recommendation follows ethics hearings on investigations launched by Kline -- also a former Johnson County district attorney -- into a Planned Parenthood affiliate and another clinic operated by abortion provider George Tiller, who was murdered in May 2009.

The disciplinary administrator of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys alleges that Kline lied to the state Supreme Court about whether he was seeking the identities of women who had obtained abortions, selectively presented information to a Johnson County grand jury investigating Tiller, mishandled medical records and discussed active cases on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor." Kline accused abortion providers in the state of violating the law and not reporting pregnancies of minors, and he sought patient medical records for his case. The investigation began shortly after Kline became attorney general in 2003 and continued when he became district attorney in 2007 (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/26).

In its 184-page report, the panel wrote that Kline's "dishonest and selfish motives aggravate the misconduct in this case" and that he "failed to take any responsibility for his misconduct." The panel found that Kline repeatedly misled officials and allowed subordinates to mislead others in order to advance investigations of abortion providers. It also found that Kline provided a false statement to investigators and attempted to mislead the panel itself. The panel said that some allegations, including criticisms of how Kline and his subordinates handled medical records, did not violate the state's rules for attorneys.

The Kansas Supreme Court has the final authority on whether Kline will face sanctions, and it will be six months or more before the court hears the case, according to the AP/Post. The panel stopped short of recommending that Kline lose his law license, which state Disciplinary Administrator Stanton Hazlett had suggested. A Kansas attorney whose license is suspended can file a petition to have it reinstated.

Kline disputes the allegations against him. "My 'mistake' was my willingness to investigate politically powerful people and to let that investigation go where the evidence led," he said in a statement (AP/Washington Post, 10/13).