Pennsylvania Legislature Begins Process of Firing Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane stubbornly clung to office, refusing to resign even after she was suspended from practicing law for her alleged crimes and ethical violations by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (crimes including official oppression, perjury, and obstruction of justice).

Even before she was suspended from the bar, we had already rated Kane as the nation’s worst state attorney general.

Now, the Pennsylvania State Senate has begun the difficult, time-consuming process of removing Kane from office, with a committee voting 5-to-2 to move forward. I discuss that decision, and the events leading up to it, at this link.

Pennsylvania’s state constitution expressly empowers the senate to remove Kane for her misconduct. Yet Kane claims that any attempt to remove her would be unconstitutional, an argument rejected by legislators of both parties (including some of Kane’s fellow Democrats who think her removal from office is premature as a policy matter).

Kane’s intransigent stubbornness elevates her own selfish interests ahead of her state’s, contrary to her fundamental ethical duties as an attorney. Kane’s refusal to step down endangers her office’s ability to carry its responsibilities, since as a suspended lawyer, she is no longer allowed to practice law, and practicing law includes supervising other lawyers—something she continues to do, including overseeing criminal prosecutions by others in her office.

Indeed, as I explain at this link, she is now prodding them to pursue seemingly baseless criminal charges against others (including a member of the state supreme court, which voted to suspend her) over their offensive emails: “Kane raised the possibility of criminal charges against others in a slowly unfolding scandal involving public officials exchanging sexually explicit or otherwise offensive emails. Hours after a state Senate committee said the full chamber should consider moving against Attorney General Kathleen Kane, she announced a team of prosecutors will look into ‘racist, misogynistic, homophobic and religiously offensive content’ of emails on her office’s servers.”

Whatever discipline those officials may deserve from their agencies or offices (which may not be much in the case of the state supreme court justice who voted to suspend Kane, since almost all of the offensive emails in his case were reputedly sent to him, not by him), there appears to be no basis for any criminal prosecution, and any attempt to do so would likely be a gratuitous waste of taxpayer money. (See, for example, the decision of the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in In re Kendall (2013), a decision that overturned the prosecution of a judge for inappropriate remarks.)

Although even the State’s Democratic Governor and liberal newspapers have belatedly called for resignation, Kane has claimed that the allegations against her are just a sexist conspiracy by Republican men. As I explain at this link, her sexism claims are ironic given her own flagrant disregard for state sexual harassment laws when it came to misconduct committed by her deputy.

Kane gives off unmistakable signs of corruption. For example, in 2013, Kane secretly shut down an undercover sting that captured various Philadelphia officials of Kane’s party accepting bribes. The case against them was so strong that Philadelphia’s district attorney, like them a Democrat, later indicted them and obtained guilty pleas from at least four. Kane sought to prevent an outcry against her by claiming that the sting was motivated by racism, a charge so baseless and irresponsible that the city’s African American district attorney said it was like “pouring gasoline on a fire.” She also sabotaged an investigation of a gambling official linked a tycoon with reputed mob associations. Kane refused to defend Pennsylvania statutes, such as gun-rights measures, that were challenged in court by her fellow progressives, even though state law gives the state attorney general the duty to defend states laws against constitutional challenges.