January 27, 2016

Senate Kane Report: Vote On Removal Only After Supreme Court Decides Kane’s Appeal

The final report of the Special Committee on Senate Address Wednesday recommended the Senate only take a vote on removing indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane if the PA Supreme Court rules against Kane's petition before the Court on the suspension of her law license.
The Committee approved the final report by a 5 to 2 vote, according to Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), a member of the Committee.
Republican Comments
“The Special Committee has done its job and has compiled a tremendous amount of testimony for the Senate to consider,” said Committee Chair John Gordner (R-Columbia).  “It is my opinion that there is sufficient evidence that Kathleen Kane cannot perform the duties of Attorney General with a suspended law license.  I believe there should now be an opportunity for each and every Senator to review the comprehensive record and to vote on direct removal to settle this particular course of Constitutional action, in either a positive or negative way.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) issued a statement on the report:
“Today the Special Committee on Senate Address has issued the full Senate report regarding recommendations pertaining to the possible removal of the Attorney General.  The Committee has been beyond reproach and engaged in a meticulous and well thought out process that goes beyond what the Constitution requires.  
“The process began in October of 2015 with the implementation of the Special Committee to examine whether or not an Attorney General can function to full capacity with a suspended law license.  Examining this serious issue started with an unclear path, however over the last three months the Committee has done an excellent job staying focused on the task at hand.
“This has been a thorough and valid process which the Legislative Reference Bureau, Constitutional scholars and even Gov. Wolf have acknowledged is within the Senate’s power and purview as it relates to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The four public hearings the Committee held allowed for a total of twelve testifiers to offer their input and provide well-balanced testimony.  Based on information in the report, it is clear that a Senate vote on Ms. Kane’s ability to perform the functions of her position with an indefinitely suspended law license is warranted.
“It is important that each member of the Senate has the ability to review this report and vote on the issue at hand.  However, as was made clear in the report and recommendation by the Committee, no action will be taken before the Supreme Court makes a determination regarding the Attorney General’s current Application for Extraordinary Relief for restoration of her law license.  I look forward to discussions with members from both sides of the aisle should they have questions as this matter continues to progress.”
On the floor of the Senate, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) introduced a letter from the PA District Attorneys Association saying any elected public prosecutor necessarily involves the practice of law and requires the individual serving in that position to hold a law license.
Democratic Remarks
Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), a member of the Committee, issued this statement, "I voted against the report because, despite the majority's reliance on unproved or unprovable and disputed claims, the evidence throughout has been clear and consistent that the attorney general remains constitutionally qualified within both the letter and the intent of the state Constitution to hold her office.
"It also was consistent and clear that there are no duties of a legal nature that the attorney general personally must perform, and that all duties of her office are being fulfilled and are not likely to go unfilled as a result of the suspension of her law license. No incompetency is apparent on a fair reading of the record, and the root of the suspension itself is a pending criminal proceeding, which Senate precedent makes grounds for removal by impeachment only and not for removal in this manner.
"The proceedings also revealed a lack of clear standards for the proof that should be required to remove an elected official and for a process properly transparent from start to finish. Instead, it also leaves other members of the Senate, who might be called to vote on removal, without a credible opportunity to gauge the weight and credibility of the evidence themselves.
"Not only was the attorney general denied the opportunity to question any of the witnesses in our hearings, but the irregularity of the proceedings was highlighted even today by the admission of apparent testimony into the Senate record without the opportunity for members of the committee to inquire into them."
Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) issued this statement, "The work of the Special Committee on Senate Address has come to an end, as should the removal process in the Senate. The recommendation of the majority of the Special Committee to move forward with the removal process by putting it to a vote of the Senate is simply wrong. Recommending a vote of the Senate without some recommended outcome undermines the entire process.
"First, what if any evidence did the committee obtain that supports removal? The deputies said that most of the work of the Attorney General involves the practice of law. This was contradicted by Attorney General Kane's Chief of Staff Jonathan Duecker and former Philadelphia District Attorney and Governor Ed Rendell at the January 12 hearing. Specifically, Chief of Staff Duecker and Governor Rendell testified that more than 90 percent of the Attorney General's responsibilities in office are managerial and policy matters.
"They said, and it makes sense, that the Attorney General is primarily the CEO of an 830-person, multi-office law enforcement operation. The Office of Attorney General indeed goes to court, but has more than 300 lawyers to do so. In fact, we received testimony that two-thirds of the Attorney General's staff are not lawyers.
"The deputies also predicted an avalanche of litigation challenging the prosecutorial authority of the office. False again. Courts of Common Pleas are routinely ruling that the Office of Attorney General has the authority to prosecute criminals since their powers come from the Commonwealth Attorneys Act not an individual law license of the Attorney General.
"Is the Attorney General practicing law without a license? We have scant, if any, evidence of that before the Special Committee. In fact, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court would be responsible for that determination and they have not found it to be the case.
"Is having a temporarily suspended law license as Attorney General a violation of the constitution or law? The Attorney General is a lawyer and a member of the bar of the Supreme Court. She meets the requirements of Article 4, Section 5, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Further, Constitutional and statutory interpretation is the function of the judicial branch not the legislature. If we remove the Attorney General based upon our interpretation of the constitution, we would become the Supreme Senate and ruin the framework for our democracy.
"Second, should the hearing and testimony have been held before the entire Senate? The Special Committee was unable to come to a specific finding on removal based on the evidence in its November 25 Preliminary Report and today. The Senate has been asked to make a decision that the Special Committee could not.
"I urge the Senate not to move forward with the removal process set forth in Article 6, Section 7, The Special Committee did not recommend removal because there's no evidence to do so. I urge the Senate to take no action with regard to the recommendations of the majority of the Special Committee."
Click Here for a copy of the report.