A formal ethics complaint against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline was announced today.
The complaint alleges Kline violated the state of Kansas' rules of professional conduct in his capacity as AG and later as Johnson County District Attorney in his investigation of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
The complaint alleges that after taking office, Kline met with senior deputy Eric Rucker and investigator Tom Williams and plotted a way to "target" Wichita abortion provider George Tiller and his now-shuttered clinic.
Office of Disciplinary Administrator alleges that under Kline's direction, attorney Stephen
Maxwell -- who worked for Kline in the Kansas Attorney
General's office and later followed Kline to the Johnson County
Attorney's office -- tricked a Shawnee County District Court judge into
issuing subpoenas for women's medical records in Kline's now
complaint also alleges that Maxwell, now an attorney in the Reno County
District Attorney's office, and Kline tried to withhold legal opinions
and law review articles from a Johnson County grand jury in an attempt
to hide the fact that a federal court struck down a 2003 opinion by
then-Attorney General Kline that
interpreted a child-abuse reporting law to say that any sexual activity
between children 16 and younger was child abuse.
In the first complaint, the Disciplinary Administrator alleges that Maxwell knowingly misled
Shawnee County Chief District Court Judge Richard D. Anderson
with bad statistics from the Kansas Department of Social and
Rehabilitation Services in an attempt to start the inquisition into the abortion clinics.
used an affidavit from Kline's investigator, Williams,
alleging a "gross disparity" between the number of incidents of abuse
reported by SRS (175 in Sedgwick County) and those reported by the
Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing
Child Unit (1,884).
The Disciplinary Administrator alleges that Kline knowingly approved of
A week after Maxwell's request for an inquisition, Maxwell received an e-mail from Kline's No. 2 man,
Eric Rucker, saying: "there could be a problem
with respect to the SRS statistical information regarding abuse."
Maxwell didn't see a problem.
In an e-mail, he wrote: "It
shouldn't affect us one way or another. They are the ones that
misrepresented the numbers. We used what they gave us. At some point,
we may have to clarify with the judge if and when we go back for
further inquisition subpoenas. At that point, we can tell him what
happened. Tom and I are going through e-mail tomorrow to try and
develop a plan of action."
Except, the complaint alleges, Maxwell never clarified it to the judge.
The complaint alleges that Maxwell knew he was presenting "obviously flawed" information to the court.
On October 29, 2003, Anderson approved the inquisition and
ordered the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and SRS to turn
over the records.
Also in the compliant against Kline, he is accused of using records obtained through subpoena
from a Wichita La Quinta to identify "221 potential adult-patient
names, 221 adult-patient addresses (street, city, and state), and 221
adult-patient telephone numbers" of clients of Tiller's clinic. Kline and his
subordinates are also accused of staking out Tiller's
clinic from January 2005 through the fall of the same year to "identify
visitors and employees of Dr. Tiller's clinic." They are also
accused of "following visitors and employees to their vehicles and
recording automobile license plate numbers" in an attempt to "identify
the name of the driver."
Then Rucker allegedly lied about the attempts to ID patients when
talking to the Kansas Supreme Court in 2005. His allegedly false claims
subpoenaed, records of live births by girls under 16, when it allegedly
was the other way around.
wasn't seeking "the identity of any adult woman who had obtained
services by either of the clinics, nor will we ask for that identity,"
when Rucker allegedly knew of the attempt to cross-reference the hotel
records against the redacted abortion records obtained from the Kansas
Department of Health and Environment.
the Attorney General's office did not know the names of any children
who had received abortions, when those names were known.
On March 28, 2006, Maxwell again appeared before Anderson and
requested the subpoenas for medical records be reissued. Maxwell used
an affidavit from Williams, even though he knew it contained bad stats. Maxwell
also called Williams as a witness at the hearing and "allowed Williams
to claim that a 10-year-old patient from California had received an
abortion from Dr. Tiller, and that the child's pregnancy had never been
reported as abuse."
Maxwell argued that Williams couldn't find a report of abuse
for the girl's late-term abortion. Maxwell said the lack of report showed that either Tiller had
failed to report that the girl was a victim of sexual abuse and the
pregnancy endangered her life, or Tiller didn't have enough evidence to
show the "required post viability findings."
But Maxwell knew a year earlier that the pregnancy had been
reported and the suspected rapist had been prosecuted, the complaint
alleges, and he didn't do anything to tell the court.
The Wichita Eagle reported on a November 2008 hearing in
which the girl's abortion came up. Tiller's attorneys argued that Kline
was lying when he claimed that
Tiller hadn't reported the girl as a possible victim of child rape, the
Eagle reported. Tiller's attorney, Dan Monnat, even provided documents detailing the girl's story.
"That was more than a year after they learned of the [rapist's] prosecution in the girl's home state," the Eagle
reported. "Another document indicated Tiller had reported the girl's
abortion to Kansas Child Protective Services. But Williams said that
wasn't clear to him at the time."
Based on Maxwell's information, Anderson released 62 records from Tiller's
clinic and 29 from Planned Parenthood to Maxwell on October 24, 2006.
Maxwell was allowed to make two copies of the records and return them
to the court.
On January 1, 2007, Anderson requested that Maxwell turn over a
Status and Disposition Report showing where the records were located.
Maxwell turned it in on January 8. The report didn't say that Kline had taken the records with him to the JoCo DA's office.
In the week that
Maxwell was preparing the report, the records moved from the AG's
office to Maxwell's "open garage" to Tom Williams' car to Judge
Anderson and the Shawnee County District Attorney's office, where Williams
reclaimed the Tiller records at Rucker's request and took them to
Kinko's where he and another deputy spent an hour "in full public view
copying the private medical files of tens of women."
Williams told a deputy to keep the files at his apartment in
The records stayed in a Rubbermaid container for 40 days and then transferred to the JoCo DA's office.
The complaint alleges that Maxwell knew his report was "in error" but never corrected it.
The Disciplinary Administrator's office claims Kline lied to it,
claiming that he kept the medical records "under lock and key" at
the Johnson County District Attorney's Office.
The complaint against Kline also alleges that Kline didn't tell Judge Anderson that he
had made summaries of the women's medical records. And when later asked about
it by Kansas Supreme Court Judge Carol Beier, Kline allegedly lied and
said he'd kept summaries of only three records "that pertain to a
theory of criminal liability that would have jurisdiction in Johnson
County against Dr. Tiller." Except the administrator says Kline had all
60 of the summaries of the women's medical records. Beier followed up
and asked him if he had summaries of the records, Kline told her, "I do
not believe that I do. I have sought the records from the Office of
Attorney General and have been refused." Another alleged lie.
The grand jury complaint was made by Stephanie B. Hensel, who
was the grand jury's presiding juror. The grand jury was selected to
investigate Planned Parenthood, and Maxwell was advising the jurors.
The complaint says Hensel requested that Maxwell provide the
grand jury with legal opinions and research on Kansas' child abuse and
abortion reporting law on December 19, 2007.
Specifically, Hensel asked for: "Any opinion, official opinion, Supreme
Court, any opinions based on the interpretation of child abuse."
In January 2007, Kline and Maxwell gave the grand jury three binders
that included Kline's 2003 AG opinion, but didn't note that a federal court issued a
permanent injunction against that opinion. The grand jury found the information on
its own. Hensel and a retired judge approached Maxwell after seeing the
case. Maxwell allegedly "denied knowledge of subject statute and cases
(even though Phill Kline's name repeatedly appeared in the opinion and
[Maxwell] assisted in Mr. Kline's representation) and could not, or
would not, explain why the words 'preliminary injunction.'"
The grand jury recalled the subpoena for records.
hearing is scheduled for February 17 and 18. Rucker's hearing is
scheduled for April 27 and 28. A formal hearing for Kline has been
scheduled for May 26-28.
Kline has yet to comment, but when he does (likely issuing a statement), we'll post it.
Photo by Michael McClure.