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Phill Kline (Associated Press/Photo by John Hanna)

Kline fires back

Following a blistering motion, five Kansas justices recuse themselves in ethics case

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

Phill Kline may have finally caught a break-or not-but he is having his say. As a result, five of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices set to rule on the ethics case against the former attorney general of Kansas, the only prosecutor ever to go after Planned Parenthood, recused themselves on May 18.

Their decision came three days after Kline filed a recusal motion against two of the seven, Justice Carol Beier and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. The 80-page motion levels some spectacular charges against Beier, accusing her of "deep-seated antagonism" against Kline motivated by feminist ideology, of protecting Planned Parenthood by, among other things, distorting evidence, and of publicly denigrating him through her rulings.

Last fall a state ethics panel recommended that the court suspend indefinitely Kline's law license for allegedly misleading state officials and the courts during the tumultuous six years he spent prosecuting Planned Parenthood for crimes ranging from failure to report child rape to forging patient records (see "Vengeance on the prairie," May 21, 2011). Kline strongly denies the charges.

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The Court will rule on the recommendation this fall. The five justices recused themselves on the grounds that they had handled complaints about Kline during the Planned Parenthood case and so could not be his "last reviewers."

Kline's lawyer, Thomas Condit, noted that the justices have known of the conflict since December. "They seized on a pretext to make it look high-minded," he said, "and make everyone look past our recusal motion." A Court spokesman said ethics guidelines prevented the justices from commenting on the case.

The motion relates how Beier wrote in 2008 that when Republican Kline left the AG's office in 2007 to become Johnson County district attorney, he took with him "all" of the evidence (mostly patient records) against Planned Parenthood in an effort to "stand in the way of" his successor, Democrat Paul Morrison. As "relief" she ordered Kline to turn over all the evidence to Morrison.

This was a ploy to get the evidence out of Kline's hands, asserts the motion. Earlier in her ruling, Beier accepted that Morrison had immediate access to the original records, which were in a judge's custody, plus his own copies. Moreover, this "relief" relieved nothing: Months before Beier granted it, Morrison dropped the charges against Planned Parenthood.

Beier then ordered Kline to turn over to Morrison copies of all the evidence against Planned Parenthood he had collected since leaving the AG's office and becoming DA.

The ethics case against Kline will now go before the remaining two justices and replacement judges chosen by presiding judge Dan Biles. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, believes that Biles is pro-abortion. The Kansas legal establishment, she said, intends to send a message to prosecutors across the country about investigating Planned Parenthood: "The ethics charges are meant to be intimidating."

As for the continuing Johnson County criminal case against Planned Parenthood, a judge dismissed 23 felony charges last fall when he discovered that state bureaucrats had shredded key evidence years earlier ("Into the shredder," Nov. 19). But the abortion giant still faces a scheduling hearing on July 11 on dozens of misdemeanor counts of failure to determine the viability of unborn children and unlawful late-term abortions.

Les Sillars
Les Sillars

Les directs the journalism program at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., and is the editor of WORLD's Mailbag section.


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