Topeka Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is asking two Kansas Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from ruling in his ethics case, contending the judges hold biases that could influence their decision.
An attorney for Kline wrote in documents released late Monday that Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Justice Carol Beier should not be allowed to rule on an administrative panel's recommendation that his law license be suspended indefinitely. Kline's attorneys were expected to file their request with the court Tuesday.
The case stems from Kline's criminal investigation of Kansas abortion providers that began during his one term as attorney general. The state Board for Discipline of Attorneys said Kline repeatedly misled other officials or allowed subordinates to mislead others to during the investigation.
Kline has strongly disputed the allegations against him and called the complaint politically motivated.
Tom Condit, attorney for Kline, alleges that Beier holds a "deep-seated antagonism" for Kline and points to an opinion she wrote in a 2008 case involving Kline and Planned Parenthood.
"Justice Beier's (opinion) cannot be reconciled with the neutrality that is required for a court charged with presiding over the final stage of a proceeding with punitive and potentially permanent consequences for a lawyer," Condit writes.
Ron Keefover, spokesman for the Kansas Supreme Court, said the canon of judicial ethics prohibited the justices and any of the court staff from commenting on the case. Keefover said once the motions were filed, Stan Hazlett, disciplinary administrator for the Board for Discipline of Attorneys, would have five days to respond to Kline's recusal request.
Condit's criticism of Nuss involves a 2006 investigation Kline conducted into conversations Nuss had with members of the Kansas Senate while school finance litigation was pending in the courts.
Kline filed an ethics complaint against Nuss, who received an informal admonishment for meeting with senators over lunch in Topeka where school funding was discussed briefly.
The recommended sanction against Kline from a three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys reflects the board's belief that Kline repeatedly violated the state's rules for attorneys. It stopped just short of recommending he lose his law license.
Kline's investigations of the late Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita, and a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park led to criminal charges. Tiller eventually was acquitted; the Planned Parenthood case is pending. Kline lost his bid for a second term as attorney general in 2006, but served two years as Johnson County district attorney, continuing his investigations.
Kline is now a visiting assistant law professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by late evangelist the Rev. Jerry Falwell. His Kansas law license has been suspended since October 2010 because he hasn't paid annual fees.
Kline has long faced fierce criticism from abortion providers, abortion rights advocates, Democrats and even some fellow Republicans. The allegation that the Johnson County district attorney's office misled a grand jury, empaneled in 2007 to review evidence against the Planned Parenthood clinic, came from the group's presiding juror.
Abortion opponents, however, have called the disciplinary process unfair. Five of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic governors who supported abortion rights, and the court suggested in 2008 that Kline's conduct could warrant sanctions.
The disciplinary panel concluded that efforts by Kline and his aides to mislead officials began early in the investigations, at the start of his term as attorney general. The panel also said Kline violated rules of professional conduct by appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" to discuss the Tiller case just before the 2006 general election.