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Archive for Friday, October 15, 2010

Kansas Supreme Court rules case against Planned Parenthood can move forward

October 15, 2010, 11:10 a.m. Updated October 15, 2010, 3:30 p.m.

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— Kansas' highest court on Friday allowed a criminal case against a suburban Kansas City abortion clinic to move ahead but imposed conditions that could hinder prosecution of some charges.

The state Supreme Court's weighed in amid a legal battle over subpoenas to several witnesses, including a trial court judge who once supervised the investigation of Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park.

The clinic is accused of performing illegal late-term abortions and falsifying records, which Planned Parenthood officials strongly deny. The clinic faces 107 counts, including 23 felonies related to the records allegations.

The charges were filed in October 2007 by then-District Attorney Phill Kline, an anti-abortion Republican and former Kansas attorney general who received national attention for investigating abortion clinics. The case now rests with District Attorney Steve Howe, who unseated Kline in the GOP primary in 2008.

A key issue was whether the district attorney can force the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to produce copies of reports on individual patients' abortions filed by the clinic. Kline had argued that evidence suggested the records in KDHE's files didn't match copies of the same documents produced elsewhere.

But the Supreme Court noted that Kansas' abortion-reporting law says the health department can turn over its copies only to the attorney general or the state board that regulates doctors. The court said the DA's office can't get them — potentially hurting efforts to compare different copies in court.

Justice Carol Beier wrote in the court's decision that the reporting law is "unambiguous" about which officials are entitled to obtain the reports.

"This court cannot delete vital provisions or supply vital omissions in a statute," Beier wrote.

For more than two years, such legal disputes have blocked a preliminary hearing in Johnson County District Court to determine whether there's enough evidence to warrant a trial.

A spokeswoman for Howe did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment about Friday's ruling.

The case is highly unusual for the length and bitterness of its legal wrangling. After Kline left the attorney general's office, his successor closed its investigation of the clinic.

Meanwhile, Kansans for Life is asking voters to oust Beier. The anti-abortion group is upset with past rulings on abortion cases, but its leaders also are frustrated about what they see as the court's delays in handling the Planned Parenthood case.

And a trial judge's status as a potential witness is another unusual twist.

Kline began investigating the clinic as attorney general in 2003. He lost his bid for re-election in 2006 but was appointed by fellow Republicans to fill a vacancy in the district attorney's office, where he continued his investigation in 2007.

While attorney general, Kline's investigation was supervised by Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson, who became the custodian of 29 patients' files from the clinic, records from KDHE and other documents. Anderson has testified in previous hearings that he questions whether records the clinic produced for him match what KDHE has in its files.

The court said while the issue is "sensitive," Anderson can testify about investigation he supervised and produce documents provided to him by the clinic in others.

However, the court said he cannot produce material from KDHE's files or testify as to what he remembers about them.

And, the court said, he can't offer opinions about the clinic's potential guilt. Beier said even in such unusual circumstances, judges should remain "neutral and detached," not "a member of the prosecution or defense team."

The case is State of Kansas v. Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid Missouri Inc., No. 100,726.

Comments

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 2 months ago

There is a saying among legal scholars. The legal system was designed to be a shield, not a sword. This was a blatant attempt to use that system as a sword. It says much that Phill Kline and his cohort have been permitted to do this. The rightness or wrongness of abortion or it's laws aside, a hatchet job has been attempted on our legal system. The fact that Phill Kline was allowed to do this and continues to practice law is a travesty.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 2 months ago

If the records in question are the ones Kline had for years, there was so much sloppy handling of them with inadequate chain of custody that they should be unacceptable as evidence. Any discrepancies are likely the result of tampering by Kline or his minions.

sully97 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, we really shouldn't be pretending this is a democracy anymore anyway.

notsobright 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't know. . . seems like the law always feels like a sword to a criminal when caught committing a crime.

Once again women are discriminated against as the court drags its feet against this clear exploitation of women. The fact is over 85% of women end up in such a clinic because the "man" in their life wants them there- again exploitation.

If this was a crime against men the guilty verdict and sentencing would have already been delivered. Good grief people. . . there are over 100 documented crimes against women here. . . and the facts are that the records have been altered (a felony!). The only thing that a politically and ideological driven court can do is gag the evidence.

Wake up please. There are other societies that have done the same things in the past 100 years and the outcome is frightening.

Katara 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh most definitely. Women are simply incapable of making decisions for themselves. The only reason a woman would seek an abortion is because she is afraid of losing her man.

It is a good thing that us women have people like you and Kline looking out for our interests.

Jimo 4 years, 2 months ago

So is Howe going to pick up Kline's shovel and keep scooping the manure, certain that the proverbial pony must exist? Or is he going to put a stop to this evidence-less harassment masquerading as a lawsuit?

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