Politics & Government

Another former Kansas official faces ethics charges over anti-abortion work

TOPEKA — A former top assistant to Phill Kline faces a legal ethics complaint alleging he made misleading comments before the Kansas Supreme Court.

Eric Rucker was Kline’s chief of staff when Kline was attorney general and later worked as chief deputy for Kline when he was appointed Johnson County district attorney.

According to a complaint filed Monday by the state's judicial disciplinary administrator, Rucker misstated details of Kline's investigation of abortion clinics during a hearing before the high court in September 2005.

The complaint also claims that Rucker used statistics he knew to be flawed to bolster the investigation before a district court judge.

Rucker faces an April hearing before a judicial ethics panel. That panel will determine whether Rucker violated his professional ethics and should be disciplined. Punishment will be up the Supreme Court and could range from nothing at all to disbarment.

Rucker could not be reached for comment Monday. Kline, who now teaches law at a Virginia university, said the complaint reveals more about the motives of the Supreme Court than Rucker.

“The court has silenced a key witness to criminal activity by Kansas abortion providers and thwarted a legitimate investigation and prosecution for violation of Kansas law,” Kline wrote in an e-mail. “Mr. Rucker has served Kansas honorably and honestly. … ”

Another key Kline deputy, Stephen Maxwell, faces a similar ethics complaint arising from Kline’s pursuit of abortion clinics operated by Planned Parenthood and slain abortion provider George Tiller.

The clinics argued the investigations were unwarranted and appealed to the Supreme Court. Rucker represented Kline during oral arguments in 2005. Responding to questions from the justices, Rucker said his office wasn't trying to identify adult women who received abortions.

But several months earlier, Kline's office had obtained the guest list of a Wichita hotel used by Tiller's patients and was attempting to identify patients by checking it against state abortion records.

Investigators also were recording the license plates of cars parking at Tiller’s clinic.

“Attempts were made to run the numbers through state agencies in order to identify the name of the driver,” according to the complaint.

“The respondent took no action following the oral argument to correct any of his statements to the court,” according to the complaint.

During a meeting last year with disciplinary officials, Rucker said he didn’t know about these efforts at the time of his court appearance, according to the complaint. But the disciplinary administrator’s office determined his explanation was “false and misleading.”

Kline accused the clinics of violating state restrictions on abortion and failing to report suspicions of abuse when performing abortions on minors.

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