Legal Ethics

5 Kansas Supreme Court Justices Recuse Themselves From Ex-AG's Ethics Case

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Five of Kansas’ seven supreme court justices have recused themselves from a pending disciplinary case against former state Attorney General Phill Kline.

The five justices voluntarily stepped aside, citing a Kansas Code of Judicial Conduct rule that requires recusal when a judge previously presided as a judge over the matter in another court, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Kline is facing disciplinary charges for his alleged misconduct in the handling of criminal investigations of abortion providers in the mid-2000s.

In a statement about the recusals, the supreme court said the justices ordinarily review disciplinary cases against lawyers about which they have no direct knowledge. But in Kline’s case, some of the misconduct being alleged occurred either in the justices’ presence or in other proceedings filed directly with the court.

Former Kansas Chief Justice Kay McFarland said five recusals in one case is probably unprecedented. “I’m sure this is a first,” she said.

Kline’s lawyer, Tom Condit of Cincinnati, said he was happy to hear about the recusals. Condit had filed a motion asking two of the justices to recuse themselves and suggesting that the other three should.

A disciplinary panel has recommended that Kline be indefinitely suspended for several alleged counts of misconduct, including misleading other officials or allowing subordinates to mislead others to further his investigations of abortion providers. It has also accused Kline of making a false statement to the office investigating the misconduct claims against him and of misleading the panel considering the case.

Kline has strongly disputed the allegations against him and called the complaint politically motivated.

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