Topeka — A criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic in suburban Kansas City has been postponed indefinitely while appellate courts review legal disputes surrounding abortion documents.
A preliminary hearing to determine whether the case would go to trial had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Johnson County District Court. But Judge Stephen Tatum delayed it, as he did in May.
The clinic, Comprehensive Health of Overland Park, faces 107 charges, including 23 felonies.
District Attorney Phill Kline alleges it falsified documents and performed illegal late-term abortions. The clinic denies the allegations and says Kline's case is motivated by his anti-abortion views.
Kline and Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney representing the clinic, said Friday that they had agreed to seek the delay. But each gave different reasons.
Kline said both parties agreed on a delay because the Kansas Supreme Court hasn't ruled on a dispute between him and Planned Parenthood over medical records from patients' files.
The high court continues to prevent Kline from calling as a witness a Shawnee County judge who has those records.
But Irigonegaray said the issue is a request Kline filed with the Kansas Court of Appeals to overturn one of Tatum's pretrial orders. That order prevented Kline from obtaining abortion reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Tatum filed an order July 7 postponing the preliminary hearing - under seal, so that a copy was unavailable. He set a scheduling conference for Sept. 11.
Kline began investigating the clinic in 2003, while serving as attorney general.
Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson supervised that investigation, and Planned Parenthood was forced to turn over copies of patients' records, edited to remove identifying information. Anderson still has those records.
Kline lost his race for re-election as attorney general in 2006, but fellow Republicans picked him to fill a vacancy in the Johnson County district attorney's office. Just before giving up the state job, he had copies of the records transferred to Johnson County.
That prompted Planned Parenthood to file a lawsuit against Kline with the state Supreme Court, trying to force him to return his copies.
Kline wants Anderson to testify in the criminal case, bring copies of the records he has and vouch for their authenticity.
But the Supreme Court told Anderson he couldn't comply with Kline's subpoena while Planned Parenthood's lawsuit is pending.
"We're just kind of stuck right now," Kline said.
Irigonegaray said the reason behind the delay is Kline's attempt to get the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to turn over reports on late-term abortions filed by Planned Parenthood.
Tatum quashed Kline's subpoena, concluding that under Kansas law, the records can be turned over only to the attorney general or the state board that licenses doctors.
Kline took the issue to the Court of Appeals, but he and Planned Parenthood disagree about whether he complied with deadlines in Kansas law for filing an appeal.
The Court of Appeals has asked the parties to file arguments by July 30 on why Kline's appeal shouldn't be dismissed.