An excellent article from the Associated Press was published on Sunday in the Topeka Capital-Journal concerning District Attorney Phill Kline’s attempts to prosecute Planned Parenthood. We have posted the article below in its entirety for your convenience.
For those of you who may not be following this story closely, or are just becoming aware, please CLICK HERE to listen to a brief audio clip (2:48) that will fill you in on the background of this increasingly complex case.
At 9:00 AM on Wednesday, the Judge Tatum will rule whether or not to delay this case until the KS Supreme Court decided it if will take the evidence upon which this case is built away from the prosecutor, who is attempting to enforce Kansas law.
If you believe, as we do, that justice is being thwarted in the prosecution of Planned Parenthood, please contact Judge Tatum and demand that he allow this case to proceed with out further impediment. Reference Criminal Case Number 07CR02701.
Judge Stephen Tatum
(This number will reach Tatum’s administrative assistant Kristie Hudson, with whom you can leave your message.)
Dispute threatens Kline’s case
The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 18, 2008
An extraordinary legal fight over patients’ medical records has prompted the Kansas Supreme Court to prevent a key witness from appearing in a criminal case against an abortion clinic.
In an added twist, the witness is a lower court judge who once supervised prosecutor Phill Kline’s investigation of the clinic, operated by Planned Parenthood in suburban Kansas City, Kan. Also, the state’s attorney general has sided with the clinic in its records dispute against Kline.
The dispute threatens to delay Kline’s prosecution of the clinic on 107 criminal charges, including falsifying records and performing illegal late-term abortions. A hearing is scheduled for May 27 and 28 to determine whether the case goes to trial in Johnson County, but the clinic hopes to delay the case until the Supreme Court settles questions about the records.
Even before Kline, the Johnson County district attorney, filed charges against Comprehensive Health in Overland Park, the clinic asked the Supreme Court to intervene. It hopes to force him to return edited copies of records from 29 patients’ files, which are key evidence in his case.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Steve Six has a separate case pending with the high court against the judge who is Kline’s witness.
Recently unsealed documents show that in April, the judge notified the Supreme Court that Kline had subpoenaed him, ordering him to produce documents — including medical records in his possession. Within minutes, a deputy attorney general sought an order blocking the subpoena, and the court granted it the following day.
Kline, an anti-abortion Republican, is frustrated with the potential delay in his criminal case.
Fellow abortion opponents believe the attorney general’s office is working to protect the clinic from prosecution because of abortion rights advocates’ support in previous political campaigns.
“It’s an obstruction of justice at every level,” said Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.
But attorney general spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said Six wants to allow the Supreme Court to settle the question of who ought to have patients’ records and to protect the documents from being circulated more widely than they have been. Planned Parenthood’s attorneys contend Kline’s zeal for a “ridiculous” prosecution has forced them to take unusual steps to fight him.
“How much taxpayer money has he wasted in this unnecessary effort?” said Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney representing the clinic. “The reason we have been successful from the beginning is not because of our brilliance but because the law is on our side.”
Both Planned Parenthood’s case and Six’s lawsuit against the judge were filed directly with the Supreme Court last year, under seal. The high court unsealed both earlier this month, making hundreds of pages of documents public.
The Supreme Court rarely seals cases, but much about the two lawsuits before the justices is extraordinary.
It’s unusual for a district court judge to be called as a witness in a criminal case, and it’s unusual for the target of a criminal investigation in Kansas to sue the prosecutor. Kline once was attorney general himself. Paul Morrison, the abortion rights Democrat who ousted him in 2006, was forced to resign over a sex scandal, leading to Six’s appointment this year.
Kline began his investigation of Planned Parenthood in 2003, while attorney general. He did so under the supervision of Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson, so that witnesses and documents could be subpoenaed.
Planned Parenthood eventually was forced to turn over the 29 patients’ files to Anderson — with the records edited so that information identifying patients was removed. Anderson still has possession of his copies, refusing requests from the attorney general’s office to return them to the clinic.
Before Kline left the attorney general’s office, he was appointed to fill a coming vacancy in the Johnson County prosecutor’s office. In another twist, Morrison, the new attorney general, was leaving that job.
In his final days in the state job, Kline arranged to have copies of the Planned Parenthood records transferred to Johnson County so that they would be waiting for him when he took over there. Anderson has told the Supreme Court he gave Kline permission beforehand, but both Planned Parenthood and Six contend the transfer wasn’t legally permitted.
However, Anderson is a potential witness in Kline’s criminal case for another reason.
According to a recently unsealed filing by Anderson’s attorney with the Supreme Court, Kline came to him in May 2007, raising questions about whether some of the records produced by Planned Parenthood to Anderson were authentic.
Anderson later testified publicly that he was concerned enough that, on his own, he went to a police handwriting expert. Later, in a filing with the Supreme Court, Anderson’s attorney labeled the records in his possession “suspect.”
In an affidavit Kline filed with the Supreme Court, also recently unsealed, he said, “It was visually obvious that some documents had been manufactured.” His criminal case against Planned Parenthood includes 23 felony counts of making a false writing.
In June 2007, Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit against Kline with the Supreme Court. Three weeks later, Morrison, then attorney general, wrote Planned Parenthood’s attorneys a letter saying his review of evidence showed no wrongdoing by the clinic.
Before he wrote the letter, unsealed court documents show, his office knew about the issue Kline had raised. In fact, an assistant attorney general had dismissed the concern in a letter to Kline, saying that the “new” documents produced contained the same information as documents on file with the state — suggesting the clinic wasn’t trying to hide information.
And Irigonegaray said: “My client denies any allegation of impropriety regarding those records.”
Morrison sought to have the records returned to Planned Parenthood. When Anderson refused, the attorney general filed his separate lawsuit with the Supreme Court.
Kline filed his criminal charges in October 2007. Anderson testified regarding his concerns about the records’ authenticity in a January pretrial hearing in Johnson County in the criminal case.
As a decision on whether that case goes to trial approached, Kline subpoenaed Anderson. It commanded him to “appear personally” for the hearing and listed documents he was to bring, including his copies of medical records. It warned, “Fail not under penalty of the law.”
According to unsealed Supreme Court records, Anderson told the attorney general’s office of the subpoena on April 2. Then, he filed a notice with the Supreme Court on April 3, at 4:35 p.m.
Five minutes later, Deputy Attorney General Michael Leitch, on Six’s behalf, filed a request for a “protective order,” mentioning the medical records.
“Now the documents appear to be on the move again, threatening this court’s jurisdiction,” Leitch wrote.
The next day, the court issued a single-page order telling Anderson to retain “exclusive possession” of his records and not to appear “until further order of this court.”
Last week, Irigonegaray filed a motion in Johnson County seeking to have the criminal case put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the two cases before it. A hearing on that request is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in district court.