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Former Kansas Attorney General has Law License Suspended Indefinitely

Former Kansas Attorney General has Law License Suspended Indefinitely

by Christopher Zoukis

On October 18, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the law license of former State Attorney General Phillip D. “Phill” Kline, who became nationally known for his repeated prosecutions of Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider later murdered by an anti-abortion activist.

In a 154-page decision that detailed Kline’s violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, the unanimous state Supreme Court held there was “clear and convincing evidence” that he had demonstrated “overzealous advocacy” and failed to operate “within the bounds of the law.” The Court concluded he had “violated his duties to the public, the legal system, and the legal profession.”

Kline, who served as Attorney General from 2003 to 2007, is now an assistant law professor at Liberty University in Virginia – a Christian-oriented school founded by evangelist pastor Jerry Falwell. He will be able to apply for reinstatement of his law license every three years.

The Supreme Court found Kline had engaged in misconduct when he had staffers attach sealed records to a public brief in violation of a court order, then ordered them to provide “misleading” information about their actions in an ensuing investigation.

He was also found to have repeatedly lied about how he obtained confidential patient records from Planned Parenthood while he was a district attorney. As a prosecutor, Kline filed at least 107 criminal charges against Planned Parenthood, charging the organization with performing illegal abortions and altering records. All of the charges were ultimately dropped, as were charges filed against various doctors associated with the clinic.

Kline became well known in connection with his aggressive prosecutions of Dr. George Tiller after being elected Attorney General. He appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor during a 2006 “Tiller the Baby Killer” campaign – an appearance that the Kansas Supreme Court found did not constitute misconduct. Dr. Tiller was murdered by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder in May 2009.

Kline’s attorney said the disciplinary board, which had recommended disbarment, “cherry-picked” incidents from Kline’s past to paint a “false picture” of his conduct. While the Court did not make the suspension permanent, it wrote that “Kline’s inability or refusal to acknowledge or address [the misconduct’s] significance is particularly troubling in light of his service as the chief prosecuting attorney for this State and its most populous county.”

While in office, Kline served as the Chairman of the Republican Attorneys’ General Association and Co-Chair of the National Violent Sexual Predator Apprehension Task Force, and was an executive committee member of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Kline appealed his indefinite suspension to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied his petition for writ of certiorari in April 2014. Ironically, Kline had previously argued before the Supreme Court himself, in a 2006 death penalty case. See: In re Kline, 298 Kan. 96, 311 P.3d 321 (Kan. 2013), cert. denied.




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Related legal case

In re Kline