It was likely too particular a case for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up, so the suspension of the law license of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been allowed to stand.
In 2015, Kline sued the Kansas Supreme Court less for the larger injustice of the suspension than for the procedural consequences of having five of the seven sitting justices recuse themselves in his case before them.
In reading the headlines, those new to the state would have no sense of the enormity of that injustice. The long and winding road began in 2003 when Democrat governor Kathleen Sebelius made the proudly “third-wave” feminist, Carol Beier, her first appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court. That same year, Republican Kline took office as Kansas Attorney General.
What Kline discovered only after a multi-year fight with Sebelius’s people to get access to relevant records was that the state’s abortion clinics were grossly ignoring mandatory reporting laws on child rape.
Of the 166 abortions performed on girls under-fifteen in the years 2002 and 2003, the clinics reported only three cases to the state department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. They should have reported all 166.
Kline was prepared to press charges against both George Tiller in Wichita and Planned Parenthood’s Comprehensive Health clinic in Overland Park. For reasons of ideology and campaign finance, Sebelius could not let this happen.
After using all her political and media clout to deny Kline re-election, Sebelius thought she had solved her problems. Kline, however, was selected to serve as district attorney of Johnson County. In that capacity, he filed 107 counts, 23 of them felonies, against Comprehensive Health. District Court Judge James Vano found “probable cause” of crimes having been committed and allowed the case to proceed.
Planned Parenthood and Sibelius’s new AG, Paul Morrison, sued Kline to derail the prosecution. When the case reached the Kansas Supreme Court, the justices grudgingly ruled in Kline’s favor and allowed his case against Planned Parenthood to go forward.
If the facts supported Kline, Judge Beier clearly did not. “His attitude and behavior are inexcusable,” she wrote for the majority, “particularly for someone who purports to be a professional prosecutor.”
Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Kay McFarland called Beier’s opinion “the very antithesis of ‘restraint and discretion’ and . . . not an appropriate exercise of our inherent power.”
McFarland scolded Beier and the majority for attempting “to denigrate Kline for actions that it cannot find to have been in violation of any law and to heap scorn upon him for his attitude and behavior that does not rise to the level of contempt.”
Wanting to make an example of Kline lest some other prosecutor challenge Planned Parenthood in the future, the activists on the Supreme Court prompted an ethics investigation into Kline’s handling of the abortion cases.
Ironically, one of the charges was that Kline did not share the scope of his investigation with Sebelius. This was true. Kline feared her people would hamper the investigation and possibly destroy evidence. As it turned out, they did both.
As the decision in the ethics case neared, Kline filed a recusal motion showing that Beier’s 2008 opinion was “flagrantly dishonest in its presentation of facts.”
After reading Kline’s motion, four other justices decided that they too had previously complained about Kline’s behavior and recused themselves, as did Beier. In doing so, the justices gave Beier cover. A public airing of the Beier-led assault on Kline would have seriously damaged the court’s reputation and Sebelius’s.
Planned Parenthood stood to lose over $300 million in federal funding if Comprehensive Health had been successfully prosecuted. So a rump Supreme Court was assembled to see that Kline lost his license instead.
“Rather than an arbiter for justice,” Kline told the Sentinel, the Kansas Supreme Court “became an advocate for abortion on demand by wrongfully interfering with a legitimate investigation into criminal late-term abortion and the sexual abuse and rape of children.”
For Sebelius, the protection of the unborn and the prosecution of child rapists was of less concern than advancing Planned Parenthood’s interests.
And Kline is the one without the law license?