Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane plans to announce a team of special prosecutors to further review any pornographic and offensive emails sent or received on government servers, raising questions among criminal and ethics attorneys about the scope of such an investigation and her ability to direct it with a suspended law license, reported The Legal Intelligencer.
Kane said last week, in a response to a Pennsylvania Senate committee report recommending a full hearing on her removal from office, that she is hiring the prosecutors to "go through every public email account trafficking this filth and track down every public server over which it was circulated."
But without evidence that the investigation might uncover criminal violations, attorneys said, it would appear to be a "fishing expedition." And, they said, it could pose problems for Kane as she attempts to run the Office of Attorney General without violating ethics rules against the unauthorized practice of law.
"You could scour your own server for every exchange within your own office, but the question is to go beyond your office," said Matthew Mangino, a former Lawrence County district attorney. "Who's going to give you the authority to do that?"
Kane said she will outline the powers the prosecutors have "to identify any violations of the criminal, civil and ethics laws of the commonwealth." She also said she will call on the Department of Justice to investigate emails involving U.S. attorneys.
Obtaining warrants to review email traffic from government servers outside of the OAG would be a challenge, Mangino said. Any warrant would need to show probable cause, and because no criminal activity has been implicated in any of the emails since the scandal began last fall, demonstrating a need for access would be difficult, he said.
"At some point it has to be more than a fishing expedition," Mangino said.
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