March 15, 2016

Senate Committee OKs Bill Allowing Special Prosecutor To Investigate Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday amended and unanimously reported out Senate Bill 1031 (Gordner-R-Columbia) to allow for the appointment of independent counsel to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an Attorney General, employees of the Office of Attorney General or those holding leadership positions in a political committee related to the election of an Attorney General.  
Sen. John Gordner said he introduced the legislation at the suggestion of Common Cause – a government reform group.  The PA  Supreme Court also urged the General Assembly to pass an independent counsel law in its opinion upholding the appointment of a special prosecutor in the case of Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
As former Justice Correale Stevens wrote, “In light of the now-lapsed Independent Counsel Authorization Act…and the absence of an analogous state statute providing Legislative guidance as to the manner and structure of such appointments, I write separately to urge the Legislature to revisit this matter.”  
An independent counsel law was enacted in 1998, but it was not reauthorized when it expired in 2003.
“After reading the court opinion, I felt it was prudent to follow the recommendation of the Supreme Court and introduce legislation setting down a process for the appointment of independent counsel when the top law officer or the top law enforcement agency of the Commonwealth is implicated in alleged criminal conduct,” said Sen. Gordner.
Sen. Gordner also served as Chair of the Special Committee on Senate Address which examined indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s ability to perform the duties of her office with a suspended law license.
The bill was originally introduced in October of last year.
Senate Bill 1031 now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.  A sponsor summary is available.