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Kansas abortion opponents cite ethics violation

Abortion opponents filed an ethics complaint Thursday against a Kansas judge who dismissed 30 misdemeanor criminal charges against one of the few U.S. doctors to perform late-term abortions.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Abortion opponents filed an ethics complaint Thursday against a judge who dismissed 30 misdemeanor criminal charges against one of the few U.S. doctors to perform late-term abortions.

The complaint alleges District Judge Paul W. Clark violated rules of judicial conduct by not disclosing that he had received campaign contributions in 2004 from a law firm representing Dr. George Tiller and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston.

Lame-duck Attorney General Phill Kline had filed the criminal case against Tiller in December, accusing the doctor of performing illegal late-term abortions and failing to properly report the details to state health officials.

Clark dismissed the charges on jurisdictional grounds. He agreed with Foulston that Kline didn’t have the authority to file a criminal case against Tiller in Sedgwick County because the county district attorney hadn’t consented to it. Kline argued that the attorney general can file such a case anywhere in the state.

Dan Monnat, an attorney for Tiller, said Clark has a strong reputation for fairness and called the ethics complaint part of “last-gasp maneuvers” by abortion opponents against Tiller.

“I think it’s preposterous in Kansas that a judge should need to disqualify himself because lawyers have contributed to his campaign,” Monnat said. “It happens every day.”

Clark did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Doctor targeted before
Tiller has long been a target of abortion foes. His Wichita clinic was bombed in 1985, and eight years later, a woman who waited for hours outside the clinic shot him in both arms.

Tiller also helped finance hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising aimed at defeating Kline in 2002 and 2006. Before filing the charges against Tiller, Kline had waged a two-year legal battle to get patient records from the clinic.

Kline, a Republican, lost the November general election to Paul Morrison, an abortion rights Democrat who hasn’t charged Tiller.

Republican state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, who opposes abortions, announced the complaint against the judge Thursday. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which investigates allegations of misconduct against judges, can admonish judges over their behavior or recommend disciplinary action to the Kansas Supreme Court.

“When you have an overt appearance of impropriety, it diminishes the public trust in the judicial system,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, whose group backed the complaint.