Archive for Friday, July 15, 2011

Kansas attorney general responds to criticism for hiring private law firm for Planned Parenthood lawsuit

July 15, 2011, 4:19 p.m. Updated July 15, 2011, 6:18 p.m.

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— Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday he was following past practice by hiring a private law firm to defend the state's decision not to give family planning money to abortion providers.

Schmidt issued a statement responding to recent criticism of the decision that said previous attorneys general hired outside lawyers to represent the state in lawsuits over school finance and water issues. Those topics, he said, were resource intensive and warranted outside assistance.

"The attorney general's office has far broader responsibilities than abortion-related litigation," said Schmidt, a Republican in his first term. "This is a situation where prudent case management requires the assistance of outside counsel to supplement the state's resources."

The Wichita firm of Foulston Siefkin will defend Gov. Sam Brownback and the state's top public health official in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood over a state budget provision denying it $334,000 in federal planning money. Republican legislators say the provision was designed to prevent taxpayer-funded abortions.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said that unlike previous attorneys general, Schmidt awarded the contract to Foulston Siefkin without seeking bids from other firms. Hensley said it amounted to a "kickback" to the firm who's partners include Harvey Sorensen, co-chairman of Schmidt's 2010 attorney general campaign.

"What I find disturbing is that the attorney general is awarding a state contract to political cronies on a no-bid basis," Hensley said.

Schmidt's office didn't immediately respond to Hensley's allegations, but said the attorney general would address the issue later Friday.

A spokesman for Schmidt said the firm would charge the state a rate of $115 per hour for paralegal services and $300 per hour for litigation partners.

Schmidt, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, said that he also was adding Kansas Solicitor General Stephen McAllister of Lawrence to the state's legal team to defend new restrictions placed on the licensing of abortion clinics. McAllister, a former dean of the University of Kansas School of Law, has previously represented the state on federal litigation under Democrat and Republican attorneys general.

The lawsuit seeks to block the implementation of the new abortion law, which places additional requirements on the clinics, such as equipment, procedures and size of their facilities.

The lawsuit was filed by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who perform abortions and provide other services at the Center for Women's Health in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb. A second clinic, Aid for Women in Kansas City, has joined the lawsuit. Neither has received an abortion license under the new regulations.

Planned Parenthood has been licensed to perform abortions at its Overland Park clinic and is not a plaintiff in that lawsuit.

"The elected representatives of Kansas citizens have enacted these new laws through the democratic process," Schmidt said. "Those who oppose them should work through the Legislature to modify or repeal them, not march to the courthouse with a small army of out-of-state lawyers."

He said at least 16 attorneys from nine organizations have notified the courts of their intent to support Planned Parenthood, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

"We did not seek this legal fight. It came to us. Now the fight has been joined," Schmidt said. "I urge all sides to let this play out as it should, in the courtroom based on the legal merits, not in the headlines based on emotions and politics."

Schmidt was elected in November 2010, defeating incumbent Attorney General Steve Six, a Democrat who was appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Six's nomination to federal bench has been stalled in committee since his two Republican home state senators announced they would oppose his confirmation to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. His nomination is also opposed by anti-abortion groups.

Comments

overthemoon 3 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if legal services must be put out for bid like other state contracting?

ivalueamerica 3 years, 9 months ago

do you have the slightest idea what you are talking about, or are you simply babbling in an insane manor?

Not one dime of taxpayer money has ever gone to an abortion in Kansas.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

Looks like this AG's top priority is going after Planned Parenthood.

Sounds just like Phill Kline. Good for you, AG Schmidt, for continuing Phill Kline's work. Why don't you start paying him, too?

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

However, this time no George Tiller to spend millions of dollars to run the AG's name through the mud! Phill Kline was a good man and did a fine job as our Kansas Attorney General he faced the buzz saw of abortion industry money that defamed a good man. We can only hope that our current AG measures up to those principles!

overthemoon 3 years, 9 months ago

Phil Kline was completely capable of muddying his name without any outside help.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

One can only hope Schmidt continues to model his term after Phill Kline's.

somebodynew 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, so that way he can be gone quickly also.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought his ethics hearing was supposed to resume this month. I don't think he's disbarred yet but it wouldn't make any difference if he was. He never renewed his law license in Kansas and he's comfortable in his cushy berth at Liberty U. He could care less if they did disbar him.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

I think you are wrong--they are telling the truth--but your blind idealogy will not allow you to accept it or even to have an open mind.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

The "truth" like promising to "protect" education and social service funding, then immediately cutting them once elected?

BruceWayne 3 years, 9 months ago

Phil Brownschmidt for president!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

"The elected representatives of Kansas citizens have enacted these new laws through the democratic process," Schmidt said. "Those who oppose them should work through the Legislature to modify or repeal them, not march to the courthouse with a small army of out-of-state lawyers."

Says Derek Schmidt, whose focus in office so far has been his effort to "repeal Obamacare" and go after the EPA.

That's rich.

notanota 3 years, 9 months ago

No expenses shall be spared for campaign donors, er, I mean fetuses! We'll sacrifice jobs, schools, the disabled, and the poor, but we shall force every pregnant woman in this state to give birth, even if it means more disabled, poor, schoolchildren with unemployed parents.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

Missing the obvious point that unconstitutional laws should be challenged in court, of course.

I mean Schmidt, not you.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

The bottom line is that those who are making the fuss don't like the new law. Using outside legal counsel is not a problem or a controversy! See how the Dem's are still so committed to abortion on demand--the dismemberment of an unborn child--they refuse to even accept common-sense clinic reg's that are designed to protect women!

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

The evidence that was provided about prior problems with the clinics clearly showed that existing regulations were sufficient to provide safe, clean clinics. If there was a problem that needed to be addressed, it was with the enforcement of those regulations.

Using outside counsel will cost the state lots of money - how does that fit in with the idea that we are "broke", and can't afford to fund education and social services adequately?

Joe Hyde 3 years, 9 months ago

With these court cases holding up the finalization of new state regulations, "The elected representatives of Kansas citizens..." have not enacted anything; at least, not in terms of being able to fundamentally establish the results of their recent direct and indirect policy assaults on the reproductive rights of Kansas women citizens.

Yeah, women. I thought I'd say the word out loud, because the white male Kansas Republicans who populate our legislature don't seem to recognize anymore that many thousands of intelligent females with independent minds live in our state, and those voters are starting to pay attention to how their male conservative representatives are trying their damnest to gain absolute control over what happens in each female's body, reproductively speaking.

Whereas Democratic party officeholders and candidates tend to be more in favor of protecting a Kansas woman's right to choose, and have performed safely by licensed medical personnel, an abortion during the legally-allowed early time frame, or otherwise consistent with law.

Just as a long-term guess, I'll say that whether the present state assaults on reproductive rights are rejected by court denial, or upheld and all the new restrictions take effect -- either way Republican politicians in Kansas are, I think, starting to piss off women voters, and that will have election repurcussions probably real soon.

ivalueamerica 3 years, 9 months ago

how much you wanna bet that all the lawyers when you count up the cases on planned parenthood, education cuts, voter disenfranchisement, and cutting services to hungry children and persons with disabilities while increasing subsidies to corporations and cutting taxes to the wealthy will add up to more than the funding cuts? Especially when you factor in that much of what is being done will be declared unconstitutional.

meggers 3 years, 9 months ago

kansasjayhawk,

Given that you clearly support the expense of defending the outrageous requirements for facilities that perform legal abortions, I'm curious about how you feel about the closing of the SRS office in Lawrence.

Once all of those facilities are successfully closed down, are the resulting babies then expected to just pull themselves up by their own little bootie straps?

notanota 3 years, 9 months ago

"The attorney general's office has far broader responsibilities than abortion-related litigation,"

There's also all that out of state anti-immigrant legislation.

overthemoon 3 years, 9 months ago

Don't forget they are focused like lazers on a single case or two of voter fraud that is influencing the voting laws of the whole dang country.

kansasredlegs 3 years, 9 months ago

Take all politics out of this argument for a moment and you'll see the real problem.

The State is prepapred to pay an outside firm AND McAllister up to an over $300 per hour. Taxpayers will spend more to DEFEND the lawsuit than the money Planned Parenthood is seeking. Go figure

Jimo 3 years, 9 months ago

"previous attorneys general hired outside lawyers to represent the state in lawsuits over school finance and water issues."

"unlike previous attorneys general, Schmidt awarded the contract to Foulston Siefkin without seeking bids from other firms."

That's because these precedents weren't partisan political schemes. (What's the Democratic policy on water law?)

If Brownback wants to volunteer for litigation then he should be seeking funding from his Koch Bros. puppetmasters, not the hardworking people of Kansas.

Joe Hyde 3 years, 9 months ago

You got that right, Jimo. The state's assaults on women's reproductive rights is literally an extension of the billionaire Koch brothers' political will, as expressed by their hefty financial contributions and other forms of assistance they are giving to conservative Republican legislators nationwide -- anyone willing to take their money and press an ultra-conservative agenda.

The Koch brothers alone, not Kansas taxpayers, should be billed for the state's legal defense expenses in these anti-abortion choice court hearings and trials.

If the Koch brothers seriously wanted to encourage public adulation -- if not adoration -- for the helpfulness of their personal political agenda, next week they would write a personal check to the Kansas Treasury Dept. for the sum of $500 million dollars (or whatever the exact current figure presently is for the state's budget shortfall). Just to cover the state's deficit this year.

In any event, their money has been fueling and directing the Kansas Republican party's ultra-conservative activism, so it's only fair the brothers spend their own money defending a state they're attempting to buy.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 9 months ago

The Kansas Attorney General's office should experience budget cuts, too. Aren't we all in this together? He could manage the cuts however he chooses, but here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Do not hire outside law firms. Do the work in-house.
  2. Cut back on in-house staff.
  3. Set the thermostat higher in the summer. Lower, in the winter.

barlowtl 3 years, 9 months ago

It's only the beginning. It is amazing how many friends and cronys that our Governor has and he owes favors to every one of them. All that money and support was not a gift, it was an investment. Now it's payback time and we all know who will get the bill. Just remember he needs the legislature to rubber stamp all his actions so some of this could be remedied at the next election.

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