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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Kansas’ Former AG Wants Law License Back

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) - Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline sued the state supreme court on Sunday, claiming his law license was suspended in "arbitrary and lawless" proceedings that cited him for violating professional conduct in his crusade against Planned Parenthood.

Kline sued all seven members of the Kansas Supreme Court, alleging violations of due process and the First Amendment, unconstitutional vagueness and bias.

He also sued 10th Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz, two Kansas Court of Appeals judges, two chief judges in Kansas state courts, another state judge, the state's disciplinary administrator and an appellate court clerk.

Kline, who lives in Virginia and teaches law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, was Kansas attorney general from 2002 to 2006. He lost a bid for re-election to former Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison.

As state attorney general, and later as Johnson County district attorney, Kline pursued what some considered an overzealous investigation of Planned Parenthood in Johnson County and of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009 when it became known that he was one of the few doctors in the country who would perform late-term abortions.

Tiller's murderer was sentenced to life in prison. Before he was shot to death in 2009 while he served as an usher in a Wichita church, Tiller was shot in both arms by an anti-abortion protester in 1993, and his clinic was fire-bombed in 1986.

While he was Johnson County district attorney in 2007, Kline filed 107 criminal charges against Planned Parenthood, alleging illegal late-term abortions and falsified records. The last charge was dismissed in 2012.

The Kansas Supreme Court suspended Kline's law license in 2013 after a three-year disciplinary proceeding that stemmed from Kline's handling of his anti-abortion crusade, and his role with a grand jury while he served as district attorney.

The disciplinary panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Kline committed 11 violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct in six years.

The violations included claiming that confidential medical records from Tiller's clinic were kept "under lock and key" though they actually were stowed in a plastic container in a Topeka home for more than a month. He also falsely testified to the disciplinary committee that he did not have access to patient files while he was attorney general.

The disciplinary administrator sought his disbarment. The panel recommended an indefinite suspension.

The supreme court's Original Proceeding in Discipline stated: "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."

In Kline's new federal lawsuit, he claims he was denied a full and fair opportunity to be heard during the disciplinary proceedings and that his legal and political adversaries collaborated to attack him though the Kansas disciplinary process.

He calls Attorney General Morrison a "political ally" of Tiller's clinic and says the disciplinary proceedings against him were "arbitrary and lawless from beginning to end."

"Mr. Kline was singled out by the defendants for a special form of disciplinary prosecution and punishment while others who committed objectively more serious violations have been allowed to continue practicing law in Kansas with no adverse ramifications, and apparently no investigations," Kline says in the 60-page complaint.

He seeks declaratory judgment of numerous constitutional violations and reinstatement of his law license, claiming, among other things, that Kansas Supreme Court lacked a quorum on his case after five justices recused themselves in 2012, based partly on one of his pleadings.

Presiding Justice Daniel Biles replaced the recused justices by appointing district court and appeals court judges, now defendants, to hear Kline's case. Kline claims those substitutions violated the Kansas Constitution's requirement that cases must be heard by "no fewer than four justices sitting."

In a news conference outside the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka on Monday, Kline's attorney Thomas Condit called the disciplinary panel the "post-recusal court," rather than the Kansas Supreme Court.

"Our position is that it was not a court at all," Condit said, calling it "a group of jurists cobbled together."

"A court sitting in Kansas, in that building, with two justices and five replacement judges from lower courts is not a properly constituted tribunal," Condit said. "The judgment's void. Phill Kline's law license was never suspended."

The judicial department had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and was unable to comment, a spokesman told Courthouse News.

Kline is represented by Richard Peckham of Andover, Kan. and Condit, of Cincinnati.

Named as defendants are the Kansas Supreme Court and its Justices Daniel Biles, Lawton Nuss, Carol Beier, Marla Luckert, Lee Johnson, Eric Rosen and Caleb Stegall; U.S. 10th Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz; Kansas Court of Appeals Judges Henry Green Jr. and Karen Arnold-Burger; Kansas state district chief judges Edward E. Bouker and Bruce T. Gatterman; state district judge Michael J. Malone, Kansas Disciplinary Administrator Stanton A. Hazlett, and appellate court clerk Carol Green.

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