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AG Kane in 'truce' with lawmakers while charges are decided, law prof says

By Karen Kidd | Mar 7, 2016

Attorney General Kathleen Kane | None

HARRISBURG - Embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's announcement that she won't seek another term did much to calm the controversy surrounding her office, a Duquesne University law professor says.

"She has taken a lot of the pressure off by saying she won't run again," said Bruce Ledewitz, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Duquesne University.

"I think there now is an ongoing truce between Attorney General Kane and the Legislature. And that truce will last until she either is convicted or her term has expired."

That truce hasn't stopped developments in the controversy that has surrounded the 49-year-old Kane and her office since Montgomery County prosecutors in August charged Kane with lying under oath about leaking grand jury secrets. The Scranton native and former Lackawanna County prosecutor is being sued in federal and state courts for defamation and also faces criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Kane's driver, Patrick Reese, was sentenced earlier this week by a Montgomery County judge to three-to-six months in jail for spying on witnesses and attorneys in a grand jury investigation into leaks in Kane's office. Reese's attorney has said Reese will appeal.

Kane also has been criticized recently for using a statewide investigative grand jury to look into decades of priest abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Kane spoke against the use of that device during her 2012 campaign, in which she became the first woman and first Democrat ever to be elected Pennsylvania's attorney general.

Kane asked the state Supreme Court to reverse its Oct. 22 decision that suspended her law license but the high court last month unanimously rejected that request.

There had been talk of the state Senate removing her from office once the Supreme Court decided on Kane's request but the pause in those deliberations has become permanent, Ledewitz said.

The Senate's decision not to remove her from office is in ways surprising and not surprising, Ledewitz said. "I'm surprised in the sense that she can't do her job," he said. "All blather to the contrary was just silly. She doesn't have a law license, she cannot oversee her office, so she cannot do her job."

A law license is a prerequisite to run for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, the state's top law enforcement position.

For all that, Kane does seem to be doing the non-legal attorney general things, such as announcing cases and some administrative tasks, all the while avoiding all the legal nitty-gritty, Ledewitz said.

There are, however, reasons why the Senate would not move against Kane. Ledewitz said that many in the Senate speculated the Supreme Court "had acted inappropriately" in removing Kane's law license.

"There's also the problem of removing a popularly elected official from office," he said. "One does not do that lightly."

Ledewitz said he also does not expect the ongoing House Judiciary investigation to lead to her impeachment.

"There are criminal charges pending against her," he said. "I don't care what they are saying, they are not going to move forward while those charges are in place."

Ledewithz says the best course of action for the state General Assembly seems to be what it has been doing for months - wait. After all, Ledewitz said, if Kane is acquitted of all charges, "then all of this will go away."

"If she's convicted, they may not bother with an impeachment because she'll be removed from office anyway," he said.

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