Phill Kline

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Phill Kline
Attorney General of Kansas
In office
January 6, 2003 – January 8, 2007
Preceded byCarla Stovall
Succeeded byPaul J. Morrison
Personal details
Born(1959-12-31) December 31, 1959 (age 53)
Kansas City, Kansas
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Deborah Kline
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Phill Kline
Attorney General of Kansas
In office
January 6, 2003 – January 8, 2007
Preceded byCarla Stovall
Succeeded byPaul J. Morrison
Personal details
Born(1959-12-31) December 31, 1959 (age 53)
Kansas City, Kansas
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Deborah Kline

Phillip D. "Phill" Kline (born December 31, 1959) is the former district attorney of Johnson County. From January 2003 to January 2007, he was the Attorney General of Kansas.[1] Kline, a member of the Republican Party, lost re-election as attorney general to Democratic challenger Paul Morrison on November 7, 2006, 58%-41%.[2] Kline became the district attorney of Johnson County on the day he left office as attorney general, effectively switching jobs with Morrison. Kline then ran for a full term as district attorney, but Steve Howe defeated Kline in the August 5, 2008, Republican primary.[3]

Kline was a polarizing figure in state politics, using his offices to aggressively prosecute abortion providers.[4] He filed charges against George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider, and led a years-long effort to prosecute Planned Parenthood in Kansas.[4][5] Kline's tactics drew legal and ethical scrutiny; he testified before an ethics investigation that he had the right to deceive other state agencies and had no duty to immediately correct false information provided to a trial judge in the course of his investigations of abortion providers.[5] In 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.[6]


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.[7]

He graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School and subsequently attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, on a partial wrestling scholarship, earning a B.S. in business communications in 1982.[7] During college, he was a news broadcaster for Kansas City, Missouri, AM radio station WHB. Afterward, in order to save money for law school, he worked in public relations for the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun amusement parks in Kansas City. 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 law firm in Kansas City, Missouri, specializing in corporate law. He married his wife, Deborah, in 1989, and settled back 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.[8]

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.

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 ultimately was unsuccessful in the general election.

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.

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.[9]

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."[10] 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. George Tiller was found not guilty of all 19 misdemeanor charges stemming from some abortions he performed at his Wichita clinic in 2003.[11] Yet on December 12th, 2008, Tiller was charged by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts on 11 counts of illegal late-term abortions.[12] On May 31, 2009, George Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder while serving as an usher at his church's Sunday morning services.[13]

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"[14] to report "all consensual underage sexual activity as sexual abuse."[15] On April 18, 2006, Judge J. Thomas Marten agreed and issued a permanent injunction, ruling that such a policy was contrary to state law.[15]

In 2006, Operation Rescue and Phil Kline 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.[16] The District Attorney who prosecuted Estrada challenged Operation Rescue's claims, stating that Kline and the records had no involvement in the prosecution.[16]

Limon v. Kansas

During his tenure, in the case of Limon v. State, Kline defended a Kansas law which provided substantially[specify] 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.[2] 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, who had received more than $1.5 million in campaign support from pro-choice groups;[17] 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, a move causing controversy.[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 rents a small apartment in Stilwell, and is 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, Va.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] On October 13, 2011, a Kansas legal disciplinary panel said that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline should be indefinitely suspended from practicing law in the state because of the “dishonest and selfish” way he pursued abortion clinics. The recommendation to suspend his license will go to the state's Supreme Court.[27]


  1. ^ The Kansas City Star, Kline, Morrison sworn in, January 8, 2007.
  2. ^ The Lawrence Journal-World, Race for Attorney General. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
  3. ^ =Carroll, Diane. "Howe’s effort topples Kline". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2008-08-06.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b 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."
  5. ^ a b "Phill Kline says deception OK in abortion investigations". Associated Press. February 21, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  6. ^ Hansen, Mark (October 14, 2011). "Ethics Panel Recommends Indefinite Suspension for Ex-Kansas AG". ABA Journal. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Family, past shape Kline's efforts as attorney general," Wichita Eagle, October 8, 2006.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Wilgoren, Jodi (February 25, 2005). "Kansas Prosecutor Demands Files on Late-Term Abortion Patients". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  10. ^ Roxana Hegeman, "Charges Against Kan. Abortion Doc Dumped", Associated Press, December 22, 2006 (accessed December 22, 2006).
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b Aid for Women v. Foulston, 427 F.Supp.2d 1093, 1095 (D. Kan. 2006).
  16. ^ a b D.A. says Kline wasn't involved
  17. ^ A New Front in the Abortion Wars,
  18. ^ a b Peter Slevin, 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. ^ Bruce Wilson, 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. ^ a b c d KCTV5 News Investigates Phill Kline - News Story - KCTV Kansas City
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Associated Press (2011-02-21). "Phill Kline says deception OK in abortion investigations". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  27. ^ Brad Cooper (2011-10-13). "Kansas board backs indefinite suspension for Phill Kline". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2011-10-14.

External links

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