HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) – Pennsylvania’s embattled attorney general will stay in power after the state Senate found Wednesday that Kathleen Kane is able to fulfill the duties of her office despite the suspension of her law license.
The Senate voted 29-19 against removing the sitting attorney general, a feat would have been unprecedented in Pennsylvania, after Republicans failed to bring enough Democrats on board.
The two-thirds vote needed Wednesday fell short by only 4 of the required 33 senators, finding that the main duties of an attorney general are managerial and do not require a law license to fulfill.
“I am happy to continue this effort, finish the mission I pledged to carry out and the job for which I was elected to serve,” Kane said in a statement.
The Senate had called its vote this week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to reinstate Kane’s law license, having suspended it last year upon the recommendation of a state disciplinary board.
Pennsylvania’s first woman and Democrat elected to the position of attorney general, Kane has faced down calls from Gov. Tom Wolf to resign and will go to trial this summer in Montgomery County Circuit Court on charges of perjury, obstruction and official oppression.
Prosecutors contend that Kane leaked documents to embarrass political rivals, and then lied about it under oath.
Journalists who reported on the leaked materials, which implicate judges and prosecutors involved in the Jerry Sandusky investigation, meanwhile are resisting efforts by the state to identify their source.
Though the Philadelphia Media Network agreed to provide the state with copies of the documents its reporter received, prosecutors want the originals so that they can test them for fingerprints and DNA they hope will implicate Kane as the source.
In refusing to do so, Chris Brennan, who first reported the documents for the Philadelphia Daily News, has cited the Shield Law, which has for over 50 years protected reporters and news outlets from being forced to identify confidential sources.
Brennan now reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer, another title under the Philadelphia Media Network umbrella.
The court is set to rule on the matter soon after holding a hearing Friday that pitted Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele against the media outlet’s attorney, Michael Schwartz.
In her unsuccessful appeal to reinstate her license, Kane had objected to Justice J. Michael Eakin’s involvement in the September decision, but the court said Kane waited too long to seek Eakin’s recusal.
A state ethics board suspended the Republican Eakin in late December based on inappropriate emails from him that surfaced in the leak.
Eakin’s emails represent a fragment of the hundreds of pornographic or racially insensitive emails exchanged between state officials and judges that came to light when Kane investigated the prosecution of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky on sex-abuse charges. Media outlets have christened the scandal Porngate.
Kane is set to appear at pretrial hearing on March 22, with the trial itself kicking off on Aug. 8.
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