TOPEKA — Phill Kline returns to Kansas today to answer allegations that he misled judges and mishandled evidence in his dogged pursuit of abortion clinics.
Hanging in the balance is Kline’s reputation, his law license and the final verdict on his long investigation of Planned Parenthood and Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who was slain in 2009.
Kline, a Republican and former attorney general and Johnson County district attorney, now teaches law at Liberty University in Virginia. His Kansas law license is inactive, but a finding that he violated his professional ethics could make it more difficult for him to join the bar in another state.
Kline last week declined to publicly discuss the case against him. So did his attorneys and a publicist representing him.
But Kline has no shortage of vocal defenders. Anti-abortion groups such as Kansans for Life and Operation Rescue contend the hearings are an attempt to tarnish Kline’s work and protect abortion providers from prosecution.
Mary Kay Culp, director of Kansans for Life, said she wished the courts were as concerned about the criminal allegations raised by Kline as they are about the ethics accusations facing him.
“If this were any other man, if this were any other issue, I don’t think this would be happening,” Culp said of today’s hearings.
A panel of three lawyers will sit in judgment of Kline. Seven days have been set aside for the hearing, which is drawing national attention.
Disciplinary administrator Stanton Hazlett will present evidence in support of the allegations, and attorneys for Kline will mount his defense. Witnesses — including a judge who oversaw parts of Kline’s investigation — will testify.
If the panel finds Kline in violation of ethical rules, it will recommend any discipline to the Kansas Supreme Court. Punishment could range from censure to disbarment.
Kline’s investigation of Planned Parenthood and Tiller began shortly after he became attorney general in 2003 and continued when he became district attorney in 2007. Kline accused the abortion providers of violating state law and covering for pedophiles by not reporting pregnancies of underage girls. He sought medical records of former patients to prove his case.
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