HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license has been suspended, more than a month after she was charged with obstruction and other crimes.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said in an order Monday that Kane has been placed on “temporary suspension.”
“This order should not be construed as removing Respondent from elected office and is limited to the temporary suspension of her license to practice law,” the court wrote in its one-page, per curiam decision.
Kane said in a statement she is “disappointed” in the high court’s decision.
“It is important to note that the order specifically states that ‘this order should not be construed as removing Respondent from elected office,’” the attorney general said. “I continue to maintain my innocence and plan to keep fighting to clear my name while serving out the rest of my term in office.
“I am confident the hundreds of employees of the Office of Attorney General will continue protecting the people of Pennsylvania with the same high level of energy, dedication and professionalism they have always displayed.”
A spokesman for Kane told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the attorney general can continue with administrative tasks but cannot “in any way act as an attorney.”
Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer most likely will handle any duties Kane cannot perform under her suspension, the spokesman told the newspaper.
Kane said Monday she has instructed her office to engage in a “comprehensive review” of all emails sitting on the office’s servers to “fully comply” with Right-to-Know Law requests.
“Our preliminary review has generated emails of government officials, including law enforcement officials and judges, heretofore unknown to us,” she noted. “These emails will be fully released either as public documents defined by the Commonwealth Court, or at my discretion.”
In August, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Kane “personally orchestrated” the leaking of confidential material to the media -- including investigative information and secret grand jury material -- through a “political operative” for the purpose of retaliating against former state prosecutors “whom she believed had embarrassed her in the press.”
“The evidence demonstrates that the defendant undertook these illegal acts without regard to either the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the damage such disclosure of confidential information might cause to an individual who has not been charged with a crime,” Ferman said.
“Moreover, the evidence shows that Attorney General Kane undertook these actions seeking vengeance and retribution against other law enforcement professionals.”
The district attorney charged Kane with obstructing administration of law or other governmental function; official oppression; criminal conspiracy; perjury; and false swearing.
Judge William R. Carpenter, serving as supervising judge of a statewide investigating grand jury, appointed a special prosecutor in May 2014 to look into allegations that grand jury secrecy may have been compromised.
After a nearly seven-month-long investigation, the investigating grand jury in December recommended that criminal charges be filed by Ferman’s office against the attorney general. Carpenter issued an order accepting the recommendation and referring the matter to Ferman’s office soon after.
Kane, hoping to have the appointment of the special prosecutor quashed, pursued a quo warranto action -- used to test a person’s legal right to hold an office -- with the Supreme Court.
In March, after initially staying any prosecution by the district attorney’s office, the court denied Kane’s request for relief.
Following the decision, Ferman’s office reviewed the recommendation and supporting evidence, and determined that an independent investigation was warranted.
Ferman concluded that when compelled to appear as a witness before the investigating grand jury, Kane attempted to cover up her wrongdoing by offering “dishonest testimony.”
The district attorney said the attorney general deliberately attempted to deceive the grand jury regarding both her conduct and legal culpability, abusing her power.
Kane maintains she is innocent, and plans to fight the charges.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.