Former Kansas AG Phill Kline is suspended from law practice for at least 3 years
By Martha Neil
Oct 18, 2013, 12:39 pm CST
Rejecting an attorney discipline administrator's call for disbarment of a former Kansas attorney general, the state's supreme court on Friday indefinitely suspended attorney Phill Kline.
Now working as a visiting law professor at Liberty University in Virginia, Kline is expected to be able to continue in his job there even if he does not have a law license, the Kansas City Star reports. He can reapply for bar admission in three years.
Kilne's lawyer, Thomas Condit, called the 154-page ruling by the state's top court "not an acceptable result" and said he and his client are exploring their options for further action. Condit said "there was never any deliberate dishonesty" on Kline's part and said the disciplinary action resulted from "cherry picking" comments that Kline made over a period of more than five years and taking them out of context.
At issue in the case was Kline's conduct both as AG and Johnson County district attorney concerning investigations of abortion clinics operated by the late George Tiller in Wichita and by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. Kline accused the two clinics of violating state law concerning abortions and shielding pedophiles by not reporting when underage girls sought abortions. Kline sought medical records.
He brought a criminal case against Planned Parenthood in 2007, which a subsequent AG opted not to pursue. It charged the clinic with falsifying records and providing illegal abortions, reports the Associated Press. Tiller was acquitted by a jury in 2009 on all 19 counts in a misdemeanor case alleging that he illegally performed late-term abortions. The physician was murdered later in 2009 while he was attending church in Wichita with his wife.
Tiller's lawyer and the forewoman of a Johnson County grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood accused Kline of misleading the court and mishandling evidence, resulting in the legal ethics case against him. Kline has complained that the case was politically motivated, fueled by those who object to his views on abortion.
Although the supreme court did not agree with all of the conclusions of a three-member disciplinary panel, it found that Kline had violated 11 legal ethics rules and what it called a pattern of misconduct with a selfish motive. The supreme court also expressed concern that Kline has not acknowledged his wrongful actions.
Among other misconduct, Kline failed to properly advise a grand jury about applicable law, gave false and misleading information to courts about the handling of patient medical records from abortion clinics and instructed his staff to attach sealed documents to a public filing, in violation of a court order, the supreme court found.
ABAJournal.com: "Former AG Blasts Kansas Supreme Court During Lunch Break in His Legal Ethics Trial"
ABAJournal.com: "5 Kansas Supreme Court Justices Recuse Themselves From Ex-AG’s Ethics Case"
ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Kansas AG Kline Tells Judges His Office ‘Endeavored Forthright’ in Abortion-Provider Probes"
ABAJournal.com: "Fired over ‘naughty boy’ tweet about ex-AG’s ethics case, court research lawyer is now on hot seat"
Updated at 2:24 p.m. to include and accord with 2009 ABAJournal.com post about Tiller acquittal.