Citing “clear and convincing evidence” of professional misconduct, the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday indefinitely suspended the law license of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.
The court found that Kline violated 11 rules governing the professional conduct of attorneys during his tenure as the state’s highest law enforcement officer and while he served as Johnson County district attorney.
The disciplinary action that led to Friday’s order arose from Kline’s investigation of abortion clinics while he was attorney general, and from his handling of a grand jury proceeding while Johnson County’s district attorney.
In case you’d forgotten who Kline was and what kind of slimy crap he pulled:
As attorney general and later Johnson County district attorney, he presided over investigations of the late George Tiller’s abortion clinic in Wichita [Tiller was murdered, in case you don't recall -- Lex] and Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.
Kline had accused Planned Parenthood and Tiller of violating state abortion law and covering for pedophiles by not reporting pregnancies of underage girls. Kline said he sought medical records of former patients to prove his case.
The investigation of Planned Parenthood produced a 107-count criminal indictment. The case against the abortion provider was later dropped by current Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.
The disciplinary proceedings against Kline began in January 2010 when complaints were filed by Tiller’s attorney and the forewoman of a Johnson County grand jury called to investigate Planned Parenthood. The complaint accused Kline of misleading judges and mishandling evidence as he investigated abortion clinics.
The next year, 12 days of evidence and testimony were presented at a hearing before three lawyers appointed by the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys. That panel found multiple incidents of misconduct and recommended indefinite suspension.
Kline’s objection to those findings triggered a review by the Supreme Court that led to Friday’s 154-page order.
The court found Friday that when he was attorney general, Kline committed misconduct by instructing members of his staff to attach sealed documents to a publicly filed document in violation of a Supreme Court order. He also told staff to file a court pleading that contained misleading information.
The court further found that as Johnson County district attorney, Kline failed to properly advise members of a grand jury about Kansas law and sought to enforce a grand jury subpoena against the grand jury’s wishes.
It also found that Kline gave false testimony to a judge and made “false and misleading” statements to the Supreme Court about the handling of patient records obtained during the criminal investigations. He also did not correct a misstatement to the state’s disciplinary administrator regarding the storage of patient records.
This case got to the state Supreme Court because Kline had disagreed with the recommendation of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, which had sought his disbarment.
In a just world, Kline would have been permanently disbarred. In a just world, he’d have gone to prison for telling staff to file a court pleading that contained misleading information. Instead, he’s teaching future lawyers at Liberty University, the late Jerry Falwell’s joint. And he insists there was nothing wrong with what he did, so he’s no doubt fomenting in some future lawyers the belief that it’s OK to lie and cheat. So he gets to go on with his life, while Tiller is dead and some of his patients have suffered unconscionable violations of their privacy.
Of course, he and his lawyer continue to insist that he did nothing wrong. IANAL, but here’s a journalistic pro tip: When you’re a DA and your own grand jury’s forewoman tells the court you’re a crook, the odds are good that you’re a big damn crook.