Tiller grand jury shouldn’t have been stopped, lawmakers say

? A group of Republican legislators say the Kansas Supreme Court overstepped its authority when it put on hold a grand jury investigation into a Wichita doctor who is one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers.

At a news conference at a Lake Afton lodge on Friday, the 17 legislators said the Supreme Court should allow Sedgwick County to move forward with empaneling a grand jury to investigate Dr. George Tiller.

The grand jury was initiated by anti-abortion groups that circulated citizen petitions. Kansas is one of the few states that allow citizens to petition to empanel a grand jury.

The court last month put the grand jury on hold in response to a petition filed Tiller. In the order, Chief Justice Kay McFarland said that it was issued “by virtue of the unique circumstances of this case and to allow full consideration of the petition.”

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, said the court appears to have a political agenda.

“The highest court in Kansas should be interpreting the laws of Kansas and not trying to … legislate from the bench,” Brunk said.

Tiller’s lawyer, Dan Monnat, said that politics, not the law, is the driving force against Tiller. He said the lawmakers at Friday’s conference “get re-elected by fomenting opposition to a woman’s right to choose.”

“I seriously doubt the court will be bullied by these politicians into acting more quickly or acting at all,” he said.

Abortion opponents claim Tiller has violated a 1998 state law restricting late-term abortions, something his attorneys repeatedly have said is unfounded.

Tiller’s petition seeking to stop the grand jury named Judge Michael Corrigan and retired Judge Paul Buchanan as defendants. Corrigan is Sedgwick County’s chief judge, and Buchanan was assigned to supervise the grand jury.

The court told them to respond by Nov. 16.

The lawmakers noted that a federal and a state court already have rejected Tiller’s effort to shut down the grand jury.

Tiller’s defense team has argued that he has been repeatedly investigated by criminal and regulatory authorities and that subjecting him to another investigation would be harassment.

Last year, for example, abortion foes successfully petitioned Sedgwick County to create a grand jury to review the death of a Texas woman who had had an abortion at Tiller’s clinic. The grand jury issued no indictments.

In June, Attorney General Paul Morrison charged Tiller with 19 misdemeanor charges accusing him of failing to get a second opinion on some late-term abortions from an independent physician, as required by state law.

But abortion opponents contend prosecutors and regulators have not been as aggressive as they should in pursuing some allegations against Tiller, particularly allegations that he has violated the 1998 law designed to limit late-term abortions to medical emergencies.