Monday, September 21, 2015

Pennsylvania Attorney General Suspended

From the New York Times

On Monday, August 21st, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license was temporarily suspended by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. This decision comes after a fiasco where Kane was accused of and arrested for leaking confidential information to a reporter and lying to the court under oath in August.

While she still officially holds the title of attorney general as affirmed by the court’s decision, a provision in Pennsylvania’s state constitution requires the attorney general to be licensed; with hers suspended, she now claims that her ability to do her job as specified by the constitution is in jeopardy and that her rights are being violated by the court, while others are questioning what powers she currently has without a license. On the other hand, her opponents are looking to remove her—specifically through the use of an impeachment process by the state Senate followed by a two-thirds vote—and even Democratic governor Tom Wolf and state representative Steve Santarsiero have both called for her resignation, while Kane believes she’s being targeted by an “old boys’ network.”

What's really interesting is that she's left in a strange position - she's still officially the AG but without the qualifications, and thus she's found herself in an odd no-man's land with vaguely defined powers. Scott Vernick, an expert on legal ethics, contends that "as an elected official, Kane’s first priority should be what’s best for her constituents" - that is, Pennsylvania needs an AG with full constitutional power. Whether that means appointing a temporary AG or allowing Kane to exercise her full power under office, that remains to be decided.

Brief Background on Kane – was elected in 2012 as the first female AG in Pennsylvania, and is a Democrat. Arrested in August 2015 on accusations of leaking confidential info to the press and then committing perjury.

Questions: 

1) If the court has revoked her license but not her position as AG, should she step down?

2) Should Kane be allowed to retain her office and her powers until she is formally convicted of a crime?

3) As Kane is allowed to retain her position, what powers does she actually have? Should she be allowed to make executive decisions as AG?

4) By revoking her license, are her rights actually being constitutionally violated by interfering with the due process of the law in removing an elected official?

5) If an elected official is being investigated, should he/she maintain office until the end of the investigation?

Sources
NY Times
Yahoo News
Philadelphia Business Journal

2 comments:

Daniel Jun said...

More than anything, it is clear that Kane deserves every bad repercussion originating from her lying under oath, but unfortunately these kinds of scandals very rarely play out neatly. First off, what kind of information did she leak? One could argue that if the information was helpful to the public, her legal indiscretions could be pardoned or at least viewed as less evil.

Second, Kane is a governor. That's a lot of power for a single person to have. If Kane is not to have power, then who would that power be delegated to? A sub-committee? Or a whole new election? The semantics involved is too cumbersome to be able to efficiently come up with a substitute. In times like this, simplicity is key. In this day and age, her every action will be announced very clearly on the Internet. The people she represents and acts for will scrutinize her every action, meaning a whole new person or group may not have to replace her.

If a dentist loses his or her licence, that dentist can no longer practice dentistry. Similarly, it seems as though Kane will not be able to be a lawyer should things head south. But I do not believe that her lying under oath alone constitutes her losing her position. But if people lose faith in her, lose trust in her, that is a different story entirely. Politicians are voted in with the hope that they will not try and screw over their constituents. When that trust is gone, often the politician will be gone too.

Tara Young said...

I think that since Kane's law license was temporarily suspended then she should be temporarily suspended from her position as Attorney General until her license is reinstalled. She should not be removed from office until she is formally convicted of a crime because people are "innocent until proven guilty" so she should not faced repercussions until then. Possibly someone should be chosen to replace her while there is no definite result concerning the accusation and arrest.