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Poetic Justice in Kansas
Talk about turnabout being fair play.
In a surprising break with the pattern of looniness that seems to characterize law and politics in the state of Kansas, the state’s Supreme Court on Friday indefinitely suspended the law license of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in a unanimous ruling that found Kline had violated 11 rules of professional conduct in the course of directing his department’s epic jihad against abortion providers in the state.
In a 154-page decision, the highest court’s seven judges (five of whom were replacing five sitting jurists who had recused themselves in the case) found that Kline had “failed to recognize” the line between “overzealous advocacy” and his professional obligations as the state’s top prosecutor in his pursuit of an anti-abortion political agenda.
The high court wrote: “The violations we have found are significant and numerous, and Kline’s inability or refusal to acknowledge or address their significance is particularly troubling in light of his service as the chief prosecuting attorney for this state and its most populous county.”
Many abortion rights defenders in Kansas believe that Kline’s Ahab-like legal assault on late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was a major factor in revving up the hatred among anti-abortion zealots that–a month after Kline’s attempt to convict the doctor on a number of criminal allegations led to an acquittal on all counts – led to one activist associated with the Operation Rescue group to shoot the doctor to death as he was greeting parishioners at his church in 2009.
The ruling could also provide an opening for another long-time Kline target, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, an associate of the murdered doctor who provided the second opinions required under state law for patients seeking an abortion from Tiller’s office. After Tiller’s murder, Kline turned the focus of his jihad on Neuhaus, opening an investigation of her work as a second-opinion referring doctor. According to Neuhaus’s attorney Bob Eye, Kline’s office ordered her, as part of that investigation, to bring in her patient records. When Neuhaus objected that her patient records were confidential, Kline promised that the confidentiality of the records and her patients would be protected. As Eye put it, “Kline assured her that she’d be leaving his office with her records.”
In fact, Eye says it was all a “ruse” to obtain the documents, and that once she came in with her patient files to the AG’s office, they were taken away from her, and were subsequently used in court filings and, even worse, released to anti-abortion groups, which then maliciously spread the patient information far and wide, even to national TV talk-show hosts like Fox TV’s Bill O’Reilly, who made much of the young age of some of those obtaining abortions — not alerting viewers that the reason was that most of the girls in question had been raped by fathers or close relatives.
Eye says that even though the Kansas Board of Medical Arts (a compromised body of governor’s appointees, many of whom are not even physicians), which later revoked Dr. Neuhaus’s medical license, relied on those records stolen from Neuhaus by Kline’s office, the slap-down he received by the state Supreme Court and the illegal way in which the records were obtained would not likely affect the board’s decision “since they could have obtained them by subpoena.”
However, he added that the unanimous judicial revocation of Kline’s law license “should send a message to the whole law-enforcement and regulatory community that over-reaching for political ends does have consequences.
Kline, after losing his post as AG, and later as county DA, took a job as a law professor at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia. While he doesn’t need a law degree to teach law, and while the fundamentalist Christian school probably considers his abuses of authority and violation of legal ethics in pursuing abortion doctors an asset, his lack of a law license has to be embarrassing to both him and the school.
Neuhaus, who has been struggling to provide for her family on a $39,000 income earned as a research instructor at the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Department of Family Medicine since losing her medical license, expressed elation at the Supreme Court’s suspension of Kline’s law license. “It’s poetic justice,” she said, since he had it taken away for illegal actions he took as attorney general in going after my license.” She added, “However, I think it would be proper now for the judges to require him to pay for his court costs too!”
Neuhaus’s blunt-speaking husband, radio journalist Mike Caddell, put things another way. On learning of the Supreme Court’s decision revoking Kline’s law license, Caddell said, “Maybe that will give the judges in this state some balls for a change.”
Neuhaus has appealed the Board of Healing Arts decision revoking her medical license in state court. A judge in Shawnee County heard arguments last summer and is currently considering her case, with a decision expected any time. That judge could uphold the Board of Healing Arts decision, could order a new hearing by the board, or could reverse it’s decision.
As of now, Neuhaus and her husband are trying to come up with the money to pay a staggering $92,600 bill sent to them by the Board of Healing Arts, which the board, in an ultimate act of vindictiveness, claims is the costs it incurred holding the witch-hunt “hearing” that revoked her license, including the cost of flying in a biased anti-abortion “expert” to challenge the integrity of the psychological screenings Neuhaus did of Tiller’s prospective patients.
The board claimed it had revoked her license because she had neglected to sign some of the patient records in her files. As Neuhaus notes, “I don’t think any other doctor in Kansas has ever lost a medical license for overlooking a signature on a patient chart. She adds that no patient of hers had ever filed a complaint against her for her care. (The Board opened up its case against her based on a complaint not by a patient, but by a woman from Operation Rescue who had been convicted of felony firebombing of an abortion clinic.)
As frivolous as the board’s decision was, if the decision revoking her medical license isn’t overturned in court and Neuhaus and Caddell now can’t come up with the money, they and their teenage son could lose the 10-acre farm that is their home and that has been in Caddell’s family for generations.
A fundraising appeal is underway at Indiegogo, which to date has raised over $72,000 of the total amount due in checks and online contributions. There is just over one day left for making donations to that campaign.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).