Prosecutor Phill Kline asked the state's highest court Friday to lift an order that's preventing a key witness from testifying in a criminal case against a suburban Kansas City abortion clinic.
The witness is Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson. He once supervised Kline's investigation of the clinic, operated by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. He still has custody of copies of medical records from 29 patients' files.
Anderson also has said in court filings and hearings that he questions whether some of the documents submitted to him by the clinic are authentic. Kline has filed 107 charges against the clinic, alleging it falsified documents and performed illegal late-term abortions. It denies those allegations.
The clinic and Attorney General Steve Six have filed separate lawsuits with the Kansas Supreme Court over the medical records. The high court has told Anderson he can't appear in Kline's criminal case while it considers who should have copies of the records.
Kline is not a party in Six's lawsuit, which names Anderson as its only defendant, but he's seeking permission from the Supreme Court to intervene. Before the justices had considered that request, he filed his latest one, asking them to free Anderson to testify.
His filing came a day after Six modified his demand that Anderson be forced to return the records in his possession immediately. Instead, Six suggested in a filing with the Supreme Court, the judge could be allowed to keep them, but only until any lawsuits and criminal prosecutions are finished.
"Certainly, the attorney general's position and his reversal does nothing but help us," said Kline spokesman Brian Burgess.
Because Kline isn't a party to Six's lawsuit, his latest request is on hold. The justices won't consider it officially filed unless they give him permission to intervene.
Six spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said he hasn't decided whether Kline should be allowed to intervene.
But Six doesn't want the court to lift its order dealing with Anderson, Anstaett said. The order protects the medical records from being moved or more widely distributed, she said.
"That was a new development," she said. "That made us feel comfortable with the security of the records for the time being."
The condition of the records have become a point of dispute between Kline and Anderson on one side and Six and Planned Parenthood on the other.
Before Anderson took possession of them - and Kline copied them - they were edited to remove information identifying patients. Anderson has called the records "pristine" and said patients' privacy is well-protected. In his latest filing, Kline said they're merely reports to the state on abortions, not information prepared by doctors to "forward patient care."
But the clinics and Six said the documents to which Kline has access still contain pages of sensitive information about the circumstances surrounding each abortion. Six has called the records "partially redacted."
However they're described, the records are important evidence for Kline as he pursues his criminal charges. A preliminary hearing to determine whether the case should go to trial in Johnson County was set for next week but was postponed until July because of the dispute over the records.
Kline filed charges in October 2007, four months after the attorney general's office declared publicly that its review of the evidence showed no wrongdoing by the clinic. That includes the questions Anderson raised about whether some of the documents are authentic.
Kline began his investigation of Planned Parenthood in 2003, when he was attorney general.