Major news sources have misreported a Kansas Supreme Court decision in a case involving a county district attorney who is investigating allegations of malfeasance at Planned Parenthood. Reports have incorrectly claimed that the district attorney lost his case.
Several of the state’s Supreme Court justices accused their peers of using their power as a “platform” to denigrate the district attorney and to sanction him arbitrarily, while an ally of the district attorney has accused one justice of writing polemics meant for media consumption.
Though media sources indicated that last week the Kansas high court ordered Johnson County District Attorney Phil Kline to return documents to the state attorney general’s office, in fact he was only ordered to provide copies, LifeSiteNews.com reports.
Kline, as Attorney General, had brought 107 criminal charges against Planned Parenthood including charges alleging that illegal late-term abortions were performed and documents were falsified.
When Kline finished his term as attorney general, he transferred the medical records to his new office as Johnson County District Attorney, where he continued his investigation.
Planned Parenthood sought to force Kline to return all Planned Parenthood patient records, which would have hampered Kline’s investigation.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, the Supreme Court refused all of Planned Parenthood’s requests, including demands that Kline relinquish all medical records, be found in contempt and fined, and forced to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees.
Kline was ordered to provide copies of the medical records, which he reported he had already done.
Justice Carol Beier wrote in her decision that Planned Parenthood and the Attorney General “are not entitled to the primary relief they seek. We will not force Kline to disgorge ‘each and every copy’ of the patient records Kline and his subordinates have made ‘and any and all other evidence Kline developed and obtained while he was acting as Attorney General that he took with him to Johnson County’.”
The Associated Press misleadingly headlined its story on the Kline case as “Kan. court orders abortion records returned to AG.”
“I won on every substantive point,” Kline claimed, according to LifeSiteNews.com
However, in her decision Justice Beier harshly criticized Kline as engaging in an "obvious and sorry pattern" of "willful disregard" and calling him "demonstrably ignorant, evasive, and incomplete" in his written responses. She also called his behavior disrespectful and inexcusable, speculating that “further instances of Kline's improper conduct” could come to light and could merit “civil or criminal contempt” or other disciplinary action.
Kline’s campaign manager Jennifer Giroux, speaking to LifeSiteNews.com, argued that the judge had purposefully juxtaposed a favorable ruling with denigrating language.
“Justice Beier wrote the opinion in a way to make it appear that Kline lost which is a falsehood parroted by the Kansas media,” she claimed.
“Beier went out of her way to create an order for Kline so she could call it a sanction," she remarked, adding: "all she actually ordered him to do was give copies to the Attorney General of what they already have. That is what she then called a sanction."
The Kansas Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Kay McFarland, also criticized Justice Beier and other justices for using the power of sanction merely “to provide a platform from which it can denigrate Kline for actions that it cannot find to have been in violation of any law and to heap scorn upon him for his attitude and behavior that does not rise to the level of contempt.”
Justice Robert Davis concurred with McFarland, saying “While I recognize that this court possesses inherent power to impose sanctions in cases falling short of civil or criminal contempt, our exercise of that power must nevertheless be measured by objective standards.”
Davis argued that the decision to “sanction” was arbitrary.
Kline’s case against Planned Parenthood will pass into the responsibility of his successor to the office of the Johnson County District Attorney, Steve Howe, who defeated Kline in the recent election.
Howe reportedly has not indicated any interest in pursuing the charges against Planned Parenthood, though he has said he will evaluate all cases after taking office.