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Pa. Attorney General|Faces Vote on Ouster

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) - The Pennsylvania Senate will vote Wednesday on removing embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane, now that the state Supreme Court refused to reinstate her law license.

Kane faces a trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court this August on charges of perjury, obstruction and official oppression. Prosecutors contend that Kane, the first woman and first Democrat to win election to the position of Pennsylvania attorney general, leaked documents to embarrass political rivals, and then lied about it under oath.

Journalists who reported on the leaked materials 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 he 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.

Also on Friday, the state Supreme Court refused to disturb the suspension of Kane's law license, based on her objection to Justice J. Michael Eakin's involvement in the September decision.

A state ethics board suspended the Republican Eakin in late December over 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.

The Friday order against Kane says she waited too long to seek Eakin's recusal.

Though Kane says she can still fulfill the duties of her office with her license suspended, the state Senate decided it will vote Wednesday on whether to remove Kane on that basis. The removal of a sitting attorney general is unprecedented in Pennsylvania.

Ousting Kane requires a two-thirds majority vote. The state constitution says the governor "shall" remove the official in question if the Senate attains such a majority.

Gov. Tom Wolf pressed for Kane to resign in the fall.

Kane faces a pretrial hearing on March 22. Her trial is slated to begin on Aug. 8.

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