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Archive for Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lawyer disputes misconduct allegations in abortion case

October 24, 2009

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— A Kansas prosecutor said Friday that an allegation that he misled a judge during an investigation of an abortion provider has been rejected in another inquiry.

The allegation and others against Stephen D. Maxwell stem from former Attorney General Phill Kline’s investigations into abortion clinics in Wichita and suburban Kansas City. Maxwell was an assistant to Kline, an anti-abortion Republican, in the attorney general’s office in 2003-07 and later in the Johnson County district attorney’s office.

Maxwell, now senior assistant district attorney in Reno County, filed a formal response Friday to the ethics complaint with the state’s Board for Discipline of Attorneys. The board has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 17-18.

The complaint alleges Maxwell misled a state judge in Topeka to further Kline’s investigation as attorney general of Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita. It alleges Maxwell withheld important information in 2007-08 from a grand jury investigating a Planned Parenthood clinic in suburban Kansas City.

Maxwell’s response denies those allegations and others, arguing that some of the allegations, including the one about him misleading the judge, were reviewed before Tiller’s criminal trial on 19 misdemeanor charges of violating state restrictions on late-term abortions. Therefore, Maxwell’s response argued, the board can’t proceed with a complaint on the same grounds.

Tiller’s attorneys had asked a Sedgwick County judge to dismiss the charges, arguing that “outrageous” conduct by Kline and his deputies had tainted the prosecution beyond repair. The judge denied the request, and a jury acquitted Tiller in March. The doctor was shot to death in May.

Maxwell’s attorneys, Reid Holbrook, of Overland Park, and Mark Stafford, of Topeka, declined to comment further. Ron Keefover, spokesman for the disciplinary board, said the complaint is pending.

If the board’s hearing panel concludes Maxwell violated professional rules, any recommendation for punishment would go to the Kansas Supreme Court. The court has the power to revoke an attorney’s license but can order lesser sanctions.

The board’s top investigator had previously notified an attorney for Maxwell, Kline and another former Kline subordinate that the three would face ethics complaints. So far, only the one against Maxwell has been filed.

Kline received national attention as attorney general for his investigations of Tiller and Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Overland Park.

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