Five Kan. SC justices step aside in Kline disciplinary case

Jessica M. Karmasek May 21, 2012, 2:15pm


TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) - Five Kansas Supreme Court justices have recused themselves from a disciplinary case against former state Attorney General Phill Kline.

According to The Associated Press, the justices -- Carol Beier, Lee Johnson, Marla Luckert, Eric Rosen and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss -- stepped aside Friday.

The justices pointed to a rule that requires a judge to step down when he or she previously presided over the case in another court.

Kline's attorney, Tom Condit, asked Nuss and Beier to recuse themselves and strongly suggested Johnson, Luckert and Rosen do the same in a motion filed Tuesday.

Now, the only two justices who remain are Dan Biles and Nancy Mortiz. Biles became a justice in March 2009. Mortiz was appointed to the Court in November 2010.

In October, a panel for the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys recommended Kline should have his state law license suspended indefinitely.

The three-member panel pointed to his actions during investigations of abortion providers.

Kline alleged illegal late-term abortions were being done at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park and at an abortion provider in Wichita. He also alleged failure to report abuse at the two clinics.

However, the panel said Kline misled other officials to further investigations of the abortion providers.

It said the former attorney general was "motivated by dishonesty and selfishness."

The panel said Kline also made false statements to the office investigating claims against him and mislead the panel itself.

Kline served as attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and served as Johnson County District Attorney from 2007 to 2009. He is now a visiting assistant law professor at Liberty University in Virginia.

The state's high court is now tasked with deciding whether Kline will face sanctions.

A Court spokesman called the justices' recusals "unprecedented" in recent Court history.

According to the AP, five judges will be appointed to hear Kline's case in the justices' places. The hearing is not expected to take place before the fall.

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