Courts & Crime

Ex Kansas attorney general faces discipline over Tiller probe

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been ordered to appear before the state's ethics commission because of his investigation into abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

The Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys released a complaint on Tuesday that claimed Kline committed "breaches of trust of his public office" and professional misconduct during his investigations of Tiller.

The complaint said Kline and his deputy prosecutors pursued the identities of women who had abortions at Tiller's clinic, in defiance of a Kansas Supreme Court order.

The board claims Kline and his deputy prosecutors broke seven Rules of Professional Conduct, including conflict of interest, competence in dealing with complex issues, handling of sensitive documents and misleading judges. The complaint also cites Kline for making improper public comments about ongoing investigations.

Testimony in the murder trial of Scott Roeder, who is accused of shooting Tiller in the head last May, began Friday in Wichita. Kline is expected to be called as a witness.

Kline insisted he broke no laws and committed no ethical violations during his investigation of Tiller's clinic and a Planned Parenthood facility in the Kansas City area. He's also said he didn't know the identities of adult women who had abortions in Wichita.

"This complaint was fully anticipated, it is deceptively structured, and it is entirely politically motivated," Tom Condit, an attorney for Kline, said in a statement this afternoon.

Eric Rucker and Steve Maxwell, Kline's top deputies, also are under investigation for similar complaints. They are accused of making misleading statements to a judge in order to further their investigation. Kline is being investigated as their supervisor.

Kline's office began investigating Tiller soon after Kline was elected attorney general in 2002 and continued until he left office. During the investigation, Kline sought patient records for a clinic, which became a main issue in his failed bid for re- election.

A month before leaving office, Kline tried unsuccessfully to file criminal charges against Tiller in December 2006.

In 2005, the complaint said, Kline's office tried to identify women who were having abortions at Tiller's clinic by "staking out the clinic, following visitors and employees to their vehicles and recording automobile license plate numbers."

"Attempts were made to run the numbers through state agencies in order to identify the name of the driver," the complaint said.

The board also cited a subpoena for guest records of the La Quinta Inn, near Tiller's clinic, as another ploy to try to identify women traveling from out of town to have abortions.

The complaint also points to Kline's appearance on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" with Bill O'Reilly. Kline spoke about the contents of records obtained from the clinic, after the Kansas Supreme Court told him to "resist any impulse to further publicize the respective legal positions," the complaint said.

The disciplinary board has scheduled a hearing for May 26-28 in Topeka. Following that hearing, a three-person board will file a report and the state's Supreme Court will decide whether to take any disciplinary action against Kline, including revoking his law license in Kansas.

Kline now teaches at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.

Earlier this month, Kline received a subpoena from Roeder's defense. Roeder's defense has indicated he followed Kline's investigation and that that information helped drive him to shoot the doctor.

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