Judge Tosses Former Kansas AG Phill Kline’s Lawsuit Over His Suspension

Nov 15, 2016

The Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspended former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's law license after a disciplinary panel found he had committed various acts of attorney misconduct.
Credit State of Kansas official portrait

This story was updated at 12:04 to include the comments of Kline's attorney. 

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has lost his quixotic lawsuit against the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court who suspended his law license three years ago.

A federal judge on Monday tossed the case, ruling that it presented a political question and therefore had to be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Greg Kays also held that longstanding legal doctrine bars an attorney from challenging the results of a state disciplinary hearing in federal court.

Kline’s lawsuit, filed in October 2015, alleged the Kansas Supreme Court justices acted improperly when they suspended his license two years earlier because five of them had recused themselves and the court’s resulting composition was invalid.

The Supreme Court acted after a state disciplinary panel found that Kline had committed various acts of attorney misconduct, including misleading officials and a grand jury, while serving as Kansas attorney general and later as Johnson County district attorney.

In April 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Kline’s request to review the suspension of his license.

A fierce abortion opponent, Kline filed misdemeanor charges against Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider who was later shot and killed while attending church.

Kline had also brought a 107-count indictment against Planned Parenthood for failing to report pregnancies of underage girls. The case was later dismissed by Kline’s successor, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Kline became a visiting professor at Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 2009. A person answering the phone at the law school Tuesday said Kline was “not taking media calls at this time.”

Thomas Conditt, an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio, representing Kline, said Kline probably would appeal.

Conditt said the central issue in the case was whether the temporary replacement of the five judges who recused themselves with other, temporary judges ran afoul of the “four-justice” requirement of the Kansas Constitution.

A provision of the Kansas Constitution requires that “not fewer than four justices shall be necessary for a decision.”

“And that’s why we think it wasn’t a valid court and a valid judgment,” Conditt said of the court that suspended Kline. 

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.