(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision suspending his law license. His supporters argue he is the victim of "political persecution" for his investigations into abortion clinics in his state.
Kline's petition to the U.S. Supreme Court alleges that the state high court unfairly applied ethics rules because he was targeted for his political views and actions regarding abortion.
Kline was suspended from being able to practice law in Kansas in October based upon incidents that happened beginning in 2003, when he was attorney general for the state. Kline began investigating two abortion clinics in the state for possible abortion law violations and not reporting pregnancies of underage girls. That investigation began a long legal battle to obtain the records of the two clinics. The battle was still going when Kline lost his 2006 re-election contest. A successor would later drop all charges against the clinics.
"The request to the U.S. Supreme Court is loaded with support from other state courts and legal commentators. It asks the Court to rein in unforeseeable 'gotcha' ethics violations, which are especially relevant to lawyers dealing with politically contentious legal proceedings and invite political 'witch hunts,'" Tom Condit, lead attorney for Kline, said in a released statement.
Kline's petition is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether the Kansas attorney ethics rules are written so vaguely that they can be used to punish political opponents.
The last time the U.S. Supreme Court took up that issue was in 1991 in the case of Gentile vs. State Bar of Nevada. In that case, the court ruled that a Nevada ethics rule violated the First Amendment because it was so imprecise that it could be selectively enforced to punish opponents.
Life Legal Defense Foundation is supporting Kline in the case. Dana Cody, president and executive director of LLDF, argued that Kline is being politically persecuted.
"Phill Kline's ethics case has always carried a strong flavor of political persecution, a perception validated by how many of his so-called 'violations' arose from factual and legal novelties," she said.
Kline is currently an assistant professor of law at Liberty University.