Phill Kline

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Phill Kline
Attorney General of Kansas
In office
January 6, 2003 – January 8, 2007
Preceded by Carla Stovall
Succeeded by Paul J. Morrison
Personal details
Born (1959-12-31) December 31, 1959 (age 59)
Kansas City, Kansas
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Deborah Kline
Profession Attorney (license indefinitely suspended)

Phillip D. "Phill" Kline (born December 31, 1959) is a former Kansas state legislator (1992-2000), former district attorney of Johnson County, and the Attorney General of Kansas from January 2003 to January 2007. Kline, a member of the Republican Party, lost re-election as attorney general to Democratic challenger, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, on November 7, 2006, 58%-41%.[1] Having been appointed by the Republican County Central Committee over Steve Howe to fill the vacancy left by Paul Morrison's election as Kansas Attorney General, Kline became the district attorney of Johnson County on the day he left office as attorney general, essentially switching jobs with Morrison. Kline then ran for a full term as district attorney, but was defeated by Howe in the August 5, 2008, Republican primary.[2]

On October 18, 2013, Kline's Kansas law license was indefinitely suspended by the Kansas Supreme Court, which held in a written opinion that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Kline committed 11 violations of conduct rules while he was the state's top law enforcement officer from January 2003 to January 2007 and later as Johnson County's District Attorney.[3]

While in office, Kline served as Chairman of the Republican Attorneys' General Association, Co-Chairman of the National Violent Sexual Predator Apprehension Task Force, President of the Midwest Association of Attorneys General, Prosecutor of the Year for the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill and Executive Committee Member of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Kline was a polarizing figure in state politics, largely surrounding the issue of abortion.[4] He filed charges against Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider, and led a years-long effort to prosecute Planned Parenthood in Kansas, which he said had failed to submit reports when young women (15 and younger) came to get abortions.[4][5]

Early life and political career

Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Kline grew up in Shawnee, a community on the Kansas side of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. He was the third of five children; his father abandoned the family when Kline was five years old, leaving his mother to be a single parent.[6]

He graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School and subsequently attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, where he became an active member of Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity (now Phi Sigma Kappa). He was a member of the varsity wrestling team with a partial wrestling scholarship, and a member of the cross country team. He earned a B.S. in business communications in 1982.[6] During college, he worked as a weekend radio DJ in Clinton, Missouri and as a summer news broadcaster for Kansas City, Missouri, AM radio station WHB. On Friday, July 17, 1981 he was broadcasting live from the Hyatt Regency Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri, when two vertically contiguous walkways collapsed onto a Tea Dance being held in the hotel's lobby. The falling walkways killed 114 and injured a further 216 people. At the time, it was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history. After graduating college, he worked in public relations for the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun amusement parks in Kansas City in order to save money for law school. He received his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1987, and was an Associate Editor for the Kansas Law Review. He entered private practice as an associate with Blackwell Sanders, a large firm in Kansas City specializing in corporate law. He married his wife, Deborah, in 1989, and settled in Shawnee close to where he grew up. The Klines have one daughter, Hillary, born in 1992. They are members of the Central Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa, Kansas.[7]

After leaving Blackwell Sanders, Kline hosted two radio programs: The Phill and Mary Show on Kansas City AM station KMBZ, and Face Off With Phill Kline on Topeka AM station WIBW. He also served as the finance director of the Johnson County Republican Committee.[citation needed]

While still a law student, Kline ran for U.S. Congress in 1986. Kline won the Republican primary election but was defeated in the general election by the incumbent, Democrat Jim Slattery. In 1992, Kline won election to the Kansas House of Representatives, where he represented the 18th District. which included Shawnee. There, he chaired the House Appropriations Committee and was a member of several oversight committees. He was a member of the advisory committee for Kansas Senator Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. Kline remained in the Kansas House until 2000, when he ran for election to the United States House of Representatives, seeking the Third District seat held by Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore. Although Kline won the Republican primary, he lost the general election to Moore.[citation needed]

Attorney General of Kansas

In 2002, Kline won election as attorney general of Kansas, defeating fellow Republican David Adkins of Leawood in the primary and Democrat Chris Biggs of Junction City in the general election. On becoming attorney general, Kline and his family moved to Topeka.[citation needed]

Kansas v. Marsh

In December 2005 and April 2006, he successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States in Kansas v. Marsh, wherein the Court reversed a ruling made by the Kansas Supreme Court that the state's death penalty was unconstitutional.[citation needed]

Abortion controversy

In 2005, Kline began investigating possible cases of child rape and illegal partial-birth and late-term abortions. In doing so, Kline requested the redacted medical records (without names) of 90 women and girls who either gave birth to a child or had an abortion. His office was ultimately granted these redacted records by the Kansas Supreme Court.[8]

On December 21, 2006, Kline charged abortion provider Dr. George Tiller with more than 30 misdemeanors, most involving abortions Tiller allegedly performed on minors. But just hours after the charges were unsealed, a Sedgwick County judge threw them out "at the request of Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston, who said her office had not been consulted by Kline."[9] However, on June 28, 2007, a 19-count indictment was unexpectedly filed against Tiller by Kline's successor, Paul J. Morrison. On March 27, 2009, Dr. Tiller was found not guilty of all 19 misdemeanor charges stemming from some abortions he performed at his Wichita clinic in 2003.[10] Despite the acquittal, Tiller was charged on December 12, 2008 by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts on 11 counts of illegal late-term abortions.[11] On May 31, 2009, while serving as an usher at his church's Sunday morning services, Tiller was assassinated by Scott Roeder.[12]

In a related matter, Kline was named a defendant in a suit brought in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas challenging a state law requiring "doctors and other professionals"[13] to report "all consensual underage sexual activity as sexual abuse."[14] On April 18, 2006, Judge J. Thomas Marten agreed and issued a permanent injunction, ruling that such a policy violated the children's rights to informational privacy and could not be justified by Kansas law.[14]

In 2006, Kline and Operation Rescue claimed that Robert A. Estrada, an alleged rapist, was captured with the help of abortion clinic medical records subpoenaed as a result of Kline's investigation.[15] The District Attorney who prosecuted Estrada challenged Operation Rescue's claims, stating that Kline and the records had no involvement in the prosecution.[15]

He was suspended from practicing law due to the fact that he illegally accessed private medical records of women who made the choice to have an abortion. The Kansas Supreme Court stated:

"Ultimately, we unanimously conclude the weight of the aggravating factors—i.e., Kline's inability or refusal to acknowledge the line between overzealous advocacy and operating within the bounds of the law and his professional obligations; his selfish motives; and his lengthy and substantial pattern of misconduct—weigh more heavily than the mitigating factors and merit his indefinite suspension." [16]

Limon v. Kansas

During his tenure, in the case of State v. Limon, Kline defended a Kansas law which provided substantially higher sentencing guidelines for acts of homosexual statutory rape compared to equivalent heterosexual acts. A Kansas trial court upheld the law, the Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, and the Supreme Court of Kansas declined to hear the case. The party challenging the law, 18 at the time of the offense, was the mentally disabled Matthew Limon. His counsel applied to the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of certiorari. In June 2003, the Supreme Court issued a GVR Order, remanding the case for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's then-recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which held that a similar Texas law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Attorney General's office continued to pursue the matter, seeking to distinguish the Kansas law from the Texas law. The Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the earlier decision 2-1, but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Limon and overturned his conviction in 2005.[17] By the time of his release he had served 5½ years.

2006 and 2008 re-election campaigns

Kline ran for re-election as attorney general in 2006. On November 7, 2006, he lost to Democratic challenger and Johnson County District Attorney Paul J. Morrison. Kline received 41 percent of the vote.[18] In order to oppose Kline in the general election, Morrison had changed his political affiliation from Republican to Democratic in the fall of 2005.

On December 11, 2006, Johnson County Republican Precinct Committeepersons narrowly selected Kline over fellow Republican Steve Howe to serve the remaining two years of Morrison's term as county district attorney.[18] With 60% of the vote, Howe defeated Kline in the August 5, 2008 Republican primary for a full term as district attorney.

Church memorandum controversy

In late September 2006, an internal election campaign memo from Kline to his campaign staff was leaked to The Interfaith Alliance and quickly was picked up by bloggers, resulting in much discussion and controversy.[19][20] In the memo, Kline tells his staff how to form a campaign committee for him at each church that will educate and register voters, "encourage people to contribute and volunteer," and network with their own email lists.[21] Kline has defended the memo and the mobilization of churches it calls for, insisting it does not violate IRS regulations governing the tax-exempt status of churches,[22] under which a church stands to lose its tax-exempt status for officially supporting a political candidate, if the Commissioner of Internal Revenue determines so.

Work attendance and residency controversy

KCTV, a Kansas City CBS affiliate, aired an investigative report that addressed accusations that Kline did not reside within Johnson County as required by state law, and that he spent an inadequate amount of time at the district attorney's office.[23] Kline rented a small apartment in Stilwell, and was registered to vote from that location. The KCTV reporters said in their report they were unable to observe Kline or his family at the address. On two occasions, Kline was tailed by reporters from Johnson County back to Topeka, the location of his primary residence.[23]

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office initially refused KCTV-5 access to records that log ID card passes at the Johnson County Courthouse garage, citing security concerns. Through exercise of the Freedom of Information Act, KCTV initially received redacted and incomplete records via the Johnson County Sheriff's Office. According to the report, the security system only saves 90 days worth of data and purged much of the electronic records in question.[23] The KCTV report, based on the incomplete records, also suggested that Kline spent an inadequate amount of time in the Johnson Country District Attorney's Office, averaging only 29 hours per week.[23] KCTV5 devoted an entire 10pm newscast to deal with criticisms leveled at KCTV5's handling of the investigation the following day.

Post-electoral career

In January, 2009, Kline left Kansas to become a visiting professor at Liberty University School of Law, in Lynchburg, Virginia.[24]

License to practice law suspended

In 2010 the Kansas Supreme Court Disciplinary Administrator brought formal professional ethics charges against Kline before the Kansas Supreme Court based on perjury, an illegal file transfer, misleading legal guidance that Kline had provided to the grand jury in the Johnson County clinic case, the O'Reilly appearance, and several other matters. Kline's ethics trial began on February 21, 2011. In his testimony, Kline claimed that he had the right to deceive state agencies to gain information in abortion investigations and that he had no duty to promptly notify a trial judge that he had provided flawed information.[25] On October 13, 2011, the Kansas state Board of Discipline of Attorneys recommended that Kline's law license be indefinitely suspended, citing a pattern of repeatedly misleading statements, "dishonest and selfish motives", and a failure to "take any responsibility for his misconduct." Kline disputed the Board's findings as politically motivated.[26] The recommendation to suspend his license went to the state's Supreme Court,[27] which indefinitely suspended Kline's law license on October 18, 2013.[3][28]

The United States Supreme Court announced on April 28, 2014 that it was declining to hear Kline's request to review the suspension of his law license.[29]


  1. "Race for Attorney General", Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
  2. 'Kline chosen as Johnson County District Attorney', Lawrence Journal World, John Hanna, 12 December 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Plumlee, Rick (October 18, 2013). "Kansas Supreme Court Indefinitely Suspends Phill Kline's State Law License". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved October 18, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sulzberger, A. G. (November 22, 2011). "Kansas Abortion Prosecution Loses Some Steam, but Fire Is Still Hot". New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2011. The case emerged from a long investigation by one of the state’s most polarizing elected officials, Phill Kline, who had used his position as Kansas attorney general and later as Johnson County district attorney to crusade against abortion providers, earning a series of official rebukes along the way for his tactics, including a recommendation last month by a state board that he be prohibited from practicing law in the state.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Phill Kline says deception OK in abortion investigations". Associated Press. February 21, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mann, Fred (October 8, 2006). "Family, past shape Kline's efforts as attorney general," Wichita Eagle.
  7. [1] Archived July 14, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Wilgoren, Jodi (February 25, 2005). "Kansas Prosecutor Demands Files on Late-Term Abortion Patients". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hegeman, Roxana (December 23, 2006). "Kansas Court Dismisses Abortion Charges". Washington Post. AP.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Doctor acquitted in late-term abortion case". NBC News. Associated Press. March 27, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. [2] Archived November 7, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. [3]
  13. "Federal judge sides with abortion rights group". NBC News. Associated Press. April 18, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Aid for Women v. Foulston, 427 F.Supp.2d 1093, 1095 (D. Kan. 2006).
  15. 15.0 15.1 Hanna, John (October 3, 2006). "D.A. says Kline wasn't involved". The Topeka Capitol-Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Lach, Eric. 'Kansan Supreme Court suspends ex-Attorney General over abortion investigation', Talking Points Memo, October 18, 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  17. [4]
  18. 18.0 18.1 Slevin, Peter. "Trounced at Polls, Kansas GOP Is Still Plagued by Infighting", Washington Post, December 30, 2006, p. A2.
  19. Kansas Attorney General writes orders for a reelection campaign operation "in each church",
  20. Wilson, Bruce, Kansas Attorney General Kline's Leaked Memo For Church Involvement In Politics, Talk2Action
  21. Kline memo,
  22. Kline defends memo during debate, Topeka Capital-Journal, September 15, 2006.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 KCTV5 News Investigates Phill Kline - News Story - KCTV Kansas City
  25. "Phill Kline says deception OK in abortion investigations". Boston Herald. Associated Press. 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2011-02-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Hansen, Mark (October 14, 2011). "Ethics Panel Recommends Indefinite Suspension for Ex-Kansas AG". ABA Journal. Retrieved November 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Cooper, Brad (October 13, 2011). "Kansas board backs indefinite suspension for Phill Kline". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2011-10-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Rizzo, Tony (October 18, 2013). "Phill Kline indefinitely suspended from practicing law". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2013-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Supreme Court rejects appeal from ex-Kansas Attorney General Kline over suspended law license". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. April 28, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Carla Stovall
Attorney General of Kansas
Succeeded by
Paul J. Morrison