Hearings and other court proceedings in Attorney General Phill Kline’s ongoing dispute with two abortion clinics over access to their patients’ records will remain closed, a judge has ruled.
District Judge Richard Anderson denied a request to open the proceedings to the public, filed a week ago by The Associated Press and the Kansas Press Association, which represents newspapers across the state.
Anderson also warned the parties against publicizing the case further.
Kline is attempting to glean information from the records of clinics operated in Wichita by Dr. George Tiller and in Overland Park by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Kline has said he needs information from patient abortion records to investigate potential child rapes and whether the clinics have violated the abortion laws.
Kline has previously said he would like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned.
Subpoena for patient records
In September 2004, Anderson subpoenaed 90 records at Kline's request. The clinics asked the Supreme Court to intervene, which it did, sending the case back to Anderson.
Anderson issued a three-page order Thursday, but it did not become public until Monday, when AP obtained a copy from its attorney. The issue of openness arose May 5, when an AP reporter attended a hearing Anderson had presumed would be closed.
Although the dispute between Kline and the clinics has generated national attention and the Supreme Court ruling, Anderson still is presiding over what state law calls an inquisition, in which a prosecutor can compel people to answer questions or produce records.
“The court recognizes there are significant intractable political features inherent in this proceeding,” Anderson wrote. “Neither the investigating law enforcement officer nor any other person subject to the jurisdiction of the court will be permitted to turn the investigation into a means to shape public opinion about abortion policy.”
‘Exploded’ notion of secrecy
Both Kline’s office and an attorney for the clinics declined to release the arguments they had filed, in keeping with a gag order Anderson filed earlier in the case.
Both argued Friday that proceedings should remain closed, which is typical for inquisitions. But Mike Merriam, a Topeka attorney representing the news organizations, wrote in arguments he filed that the Supreme Court's ruling in February “exploded” the notion of keeping proceedings secret.
“While secrecy seems to be the byword of this case, there is in fact nothing in the inquisition statutes that mandates such secrecy, or indeed even mentions it,” Merriam wrote. “There is no law requiring criminal investigations in general to be secret.”