Share This Page

Pa. AG Kane says she won't testify at Senate removal hearing

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 1:45 p.m.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is not expected to testify Tuesday at a Senate hearing about her potential removal from office, a spokesman said.

The special bipartisan Senate panel considering her removal will proceed whether or not she takes the opportunity to defend herself, its chairman said Wednesday.

“We will have a hearing Tuesday,” said Committee Chairman John Gordner, R-Bloomsburg. A resolution outlining procedures of removal under an obscure constitutional provision requires Kane be given an opportunity to speak, Gordner said.

“This is her opportunity to defend her case and have a fair hearing,” said Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

“She's preparing a response at this point, but she is not expected to appear,” said her spokesman Chuck Ardo.

Kane, 49, is the first woman and Democrat to hold the elected office of attorney general. The Senate is controlled by Republicans.

Kane, of Scranton, faces 12 criminal charges, including two felony perjury counts, in Montgomery County. The state Supreme Court in October suspended her from the practice of law.

Kane maintains her innocence and challenges the validity of the Senate effort.

“She does not believe there are grounds for removal, and she doesn't believe the votes are there for removal to proceed,” Ardo said.

Kane has called the Senate process unconstitutional.

“Given the position she has taken from the beginning, I would be very surprised to see her appear personally,” said Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe. That could be construed as validating the Senate process she opposes, he said.

“Forget about the specifics. It's generally rare for criminal defense attorneys to allow their clients to testify,” Antkowiak said. “They're going to get cross-examined. They are going to get hammered.”

Kane isn't expected to “undertake any sort of litigation at this point,” Ardo said.

But that could come later if there's a removal vote, given her statements rejecting use of this constitutional provision. Kane maintains impeachment is the only valid removal provision for an attorney general, but only after a criminal conviction.

Although the Senate effort doesn't focus on her criminal case, the hearing “could be pretty free-wheeling” if she testified, Antkowiak said. Anything substantive could potentially be used against her in her criminal case, he said.

“Frankly, it's unknown” whether the committee will recommend removal and whether the full Senate will consider a vote, Gordner said.

Kane has until noon Monday to submit any statement, Gordner said. If she fails to respond, the Senate resolution provides three more days after the hearing to submit her testimony, he said. The committee must then submit a report to the full Senate in 15 days.

The Senate decides at that time whether the full chamber will vote, Kocher said.

If her removal is considered by the Senate, a two-thirds vote is required in the 50-member chamber. That would require 33 votes if all 30 GOP senators vote for removing her. A vote could come by early February. Senate officials say they have received no notice about how Kane intends to proceed.

Though some have speculated whether Kane will take legal action to attempt to block the hearing, Ardo said, “I have heard of no attempt to undertake any sort of litigation at this point.”

The criminal charges stem from an alleged grand jury leak by Kane to embarrass an ex-state prosecutor with whom she feuded. Prosecutors claim she then lied and attempted to cover it up.

Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.