The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has begun to move toward impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a resolution that would authorize the committee to investigate Kane's conduct in office, reported The Legal Intelligencer.
The House joins the state Senate in pursuing the possibility of Kane's removal. A special Senate committee is expected to issue a report Wednesday on its investigation into whether Kane can carry out the duties of her office with a suspended law license. Kane is also facing perjury and other criminal charges, as well as five civil suits alleging defamation, retaliation and other counts.
In a statement, Kane criticized Republican efforts to remove her from office, saying the legislators should instead focus on the network of government officials who have exchanged offensive emails that she has appointed a special prosecutor to review.
"Why isn't the Judiciary Committee looking into a judicial system that is clearly broken?" Kane said. "I would hope that political fury does not trump a fair and impartial justice system for the people of [Pennsylvania]."
State Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, chair of the committee, said he is confident that HR 659, which would begin an investigation "to determine whether Kathleen Kane is liable to impeachment for misbehavior in office," will pass a vote before the full House. He said he expects that vote to take place sometime during the week of Feb. 8.
The resolution would appoint the subcommittee on courts to take testimony, review documents and interview witnesses in order to present to the Judiciary Committee its findings. The six-member subcommittee, which Marsico said is composed of four Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom are attorneys, would have subpoena power. He said he hopes to present a report on potential impeachment to the full House by June, he said.
The impeachment process is lengthy, and "it can get political very fast," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. Impeachment is rare, but not nearly as rare as the Senate address procedure currently being pursued, which hasn't been employed since 1891, he said.
But while Kane has questioned the constitutionality of the Senate's efforts, impeachment "covers a lot more ground and is more definitive," diminishing the potential of legal challenges, Madonna said. The impact the House's move will have on the Senate's efforts at removal is unclear, he said, though it could allow the Senate an opportunity to postpone a vote if some of the Democrats in that chamber would prefer to pause the process.
While the Senate committee is strictly limited in its focus to the question of whether Kane can fulfill her job duties, "the impeachment process being proposed would not be subject to any such limitation on areas to be investigated," Marsico said in a statement. He said the timing of the resolution is coincidental, and discussions on the subject have been ongoing for four to six months.
"I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to this," Marsico said. "We were thinking maybe that the attorney general would perhaps resign so we wouldn't have to go through this process."
After criminal charges were filed against Kane in August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Sept. 21 temporarily suspended her license.
The Senate committee held three hearings in November, at which it heard from district attorneys, law professors and Kane's four executive deputy attorneys general. In a 5-2 vote, the committee decided Nov. 25 to move forward with removal proceedings, allowing Kane the opportunity to testify. She elected to have her chief of staff, Jonathan Duecker, and former Gov. Ed Rendell testify on her behalf.
The committee's final report, due Wednesday, could lead to a vote by the full Senate. A two-thirds majority in favor of removal would send the matter to Gov. Tom Wolf for a final decision.
Kane is also awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court on her King's Bench petition for reinstatement of her law license, which she filed Jan. 12. In her petition, Kane argued that suspended Justice J. Michael Eakin should not have participated in the court's order suspending her license because she uncovered and publicized the offensive emails that have since contributed to his suspension.
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