It’s unclear what Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline plans to do after he leaves his current post next month, but an opinion released Friday by the Kansas Supreme Court should prevent him from ever again serving in an elected or appointed public office.
The court’s scathing opinion pulled no punches in its disdain for Kline’s handling of client patient records he seized from Planned Parenthood of Kansas while he was Kansas attorney general. Kline not only removed the records from the AG’s office when he became Johnson County attorney, but court affidavits indicate that he also allowed them to be reviewed by television host Bill O’Reilly and a Baltimore psychiatrist in an apparent attempt to gain publicity for his abortion-related investigation.
Although Kline’s campaign against abortion providers in the state is well known, the topic of his investigation was not the focus of the Supreme Court, which was more interested in Kline’s deplorable handling of the records and the case.
Among the Supreme Court findings was that “Kline and/or his subordinates seriously interfered with the performance of his successors as Attorney General and seriously interfered with this Court’s effort to determine the facts underlying this action and the legal merits of the parties’ position.”
The ruling enumerated many instances of Kline mishandling the records as evidence of “an obvious and sorry pattern … His attitude and behavior are inexcusable, particularly for someone who purports to be a professional prosecutor.”
The court ordered Kline to hand-deliver the files to the Kansas attorney general by next Friday. The opinion noted that no financial sanctions would be imposed, but only because those sanctions would have to be paid by Johnson County rather than Kline personally. “We are unwilling to make those taxpayers foot any further bill for the conduct of a district attorney they did not elect in the first place and have now shown the door,” wrote Justice Carol A. Beier.
Kline was elected by the Johnson County Republican Committee to fill Paul Morrison’s spot in the DA’s office but lost a primary race in August to an assistant DA whom he dismissed from that staff when he took office. Kline term ends next month.
The court’s action is likely to make this Kline’s final exit from the state’s political scene. The ethically challenged former lawmaker, attorney general and district attorney has been a continuing embarrassment for Kansas. Although many Kansans may have concerns about some of the late-term abortions being performed in the state, any action to curtail such procedures must follow proper legal process, which Friday’s ruling clearly confirms Kline’s actions did not.