Former Kansas AG Phill Kline asks US Supreme Court to review suspension of his law license

Kline's lawyers argue the disbarment was politically motivated and meant as “punishment” for their client’s legal actions against abortionists.
Wed Mar 12, 2014 - 4:39 pm EST

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2014 ( – Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review a Kansas Supreme Court decision that indefinitely suspended his law license.

Kline was stripped of his license in October after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling finding him guilty of ethical violations stemming from his investigation and prosecution of two Kansas abortion centers, including the one operated by the late George Tiller, as well as a Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Kline’s lawyers have requested that the U.S. Supreme Court review that ruling, arguing that it was politically motivated and meant as “punishment” for their client’s legal actions against abortionists. 

“Phill Kline’s ethics case has always carried a strong flavor of political persecution, a perception validated by how many of his so-called 'violations' arose from factual and legal novelties,” said Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is helping to represent Kline in the case.

Kline’s attorneys argue that the Kansas court – stacked with appointees of pro-abortion Obama cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius while she was governor – used overly broad “catch-all” disciplinary rules to find their client guilty of minor infractions, then punished him more harshly than was called for because of his pro-life politics.

“One disturbing factor in this case is that while Kline was punished harshly for minor, if not irrelevant, inaccuracies in what he and his staff wrote or said, the Kansas Supreme Court opinion was itself indefensibly wrong on the facts and the law,” said Cody. “The petition does not expect the U.S. Supreme Court, having limited jurisdiction, to correct all of those errors but asks the Court to rein in how those vague ethics rules can be used to blind-side unsuspecting attorneys.”

Kline’s lead attorney, Tim Condit, added, “The request to the U.S. Supreme Court is loaded with support from other state courts and legal commentators. It asks the Court to rein in unforeseeable 'gotcha' ethics violations, which are especially relevant to lawyers dealing with politically contentious legal proceedings and invite political 'witch hunts.'"

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The question of judicial bias has come up repeatedly throughout Kline’s case. 

An unprecedented five out of seven Supreme Court justices were forced to recuse themselves from ruling on Kline’s appeal due to bias against him.  However, those justices were allowed to pick their own replacements from among the Sebelius appointee-heavy district courts, and the two remaining justices were also Sebelius appointees.

Sebelius, now U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, spent much of her tenure as governor blocking Kline’s investigation of two late-abortion clinics for illegal abortions on minors and fraudulent reporting to the state.  In 2005, under her administration, the Kansas Health Department shredded documents proving Planned Parenthood filed false reports to try to protect themselves from Kline’s investigation.

Nevertheless, Kline’s investigation found that during a time when over 160 Kansas children 14 and younger had abortions in Kansas, late-term abortionist George Tiller and Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood each only reported one case of child sex abuse.  But those findings were buried on orders from the Kansas Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Carol Beier (who later recused herself from Kline’s case).

Additionally, a research attorney for the state was suspended and later fired for posting offensive statements about Kline on Twitter during his trial, in which she called the former A.G. a “douchebag” and predicted he would be disbarred for at least seven years.

Upon his indefinite suspension, Kline said he was not surprised, noting in a statement that “my ‘mistake’ was my willingness to investigate politically powerful people and to let that investigation go where the evidence led.”

“They are taking my livelihood,” said Kline. “All I’ve wanted to do all my life is practice law.” Kline currently teaches law at Liberty University in Virginia.

To read previous LSN’s previous coverage on the Phill Kline case, click here.

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