AP: Kline lawyer wants probe of research attorneys

11/26/2012

TOPEKA (AP) — An attorney representing Phill Kline against ethics charges is alleging that the court record may have been tainted by a research attorney who was later fired for posting disparaging Twitter comments about the former Kansas attorney general.

TOPEKA (AP) — An attorney representing Phill Kline against ethics charges is alleging that the court record may have been tainted by a research attorney who was later fired for posting disparaging Twitter comments about the former Kansas attorney general.

In a letter to Stan Hazlett, disciplinary administrator for the state's judicial branch, Kline's attorney Tom Condit asks for a review of all research attorneys working for judges and justices to determine whether there was bias.

"It's the only way to resolve these concerns, when there is so much at stake for Mr. Kline, is to conduct a thorough vetting of the process," Condit wrote in the letter sent Tuesday.

Sarah Peterson-Herr was fired Nov. 19, four days after she posted comments about Kline as he appeared before the Kansas Supreme Court over alleged misconduct during his investigation of abortion providers.

One tweet commented on Kline's facial expression, saying "Why is Phil Klein (sic) smiling? There is nothing to smile about, douchebag." Another predicted that Kline would be disbarred by the court for seven years for his conduct.

Condit asked Hazlett to provide him with all communications between his office and any judicial branch research attorney. He also wants copies of communications between attorneys or staff in his office and those on the hearing panel that ultimately recommended Kline be sanctioned for his conduct.

Condit maintains that because the role of research attorneys is to draft legal memoranda after reading the court record for cases that they hold "the unique position to provide judges and justices with their first impression, if not their lasting impressions of a case."

Condit cited several instances where he said the court record in the Kline case had been misrepresented, including by Hazlett during the latest hearing on Nov. 15.

"There are seemingly infinite ironies between the many failings and omissions of your office and the (disciplinary) panel report on the one hand, and the standard of absolute perfection required of all of Mr. Kline's acts and communications on the other hand," Condit wrote.

A court spokesman declined to comment about Condit's letter or what action, if any, the disciplinary administrator would take to address the concerns.

The seven-member court heard 90 minutes of arguments and will decide whether Kline is disbarred or if his law license is suspended indefinitely. The disciplinary panel contends Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, to further his investigations.

Kline was Kansas attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and Johnson County district attorney in 2007 and 2008. He is now a visiting professor at Liberty University in Virginia.

Herr was a research attorney for a Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Christel Marquardt, who is retiring in January and was not part of the panel that heard Kline's case.

She said she didn't realize her posts were readable by all Twitter readers and has apologized, acknowledging the posts may have reflected badly on the state's court system.

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