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August 29, 2015

AG Kane's law license challenged

Without a license, Kathleen Kane cannot serve as attorney general

The board that disciplines Pennsylvania lawyers told Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Friday that she is facing suspension of her law license, according to numerous media accounts.

She could not continue to serve as Pennsylvania’s attorney general if her license is suspended, though the process for removing her from office is murky, according to a spokesman for the Administrative Office for the Pennsylvania Courts.

A notice was reportedly sent to Kane Friday by the state’s Supreme Court. She has 10 days to respond.

The court has the power to suspend the law license of an attorney for “egregious conduct.”

The challenge to her license was first reported by, the online site for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper on Friday afternoon

Kane, 49, has been charged with illegally leaking secret grand jury information to a journalist and then lying about it as part of an attempt to smear a professional enemy, Frank Fina, a former employee of her office.

Her office’s spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said he was unaware of the notice and therefore could not comment.

Kane and her lawyer did not respond to requests for comment from many media outlets.

She is the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected Pennsylvania attorney general.

She could face up to seven years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, perjury. No trial date is set. Her next court appearance is Oct. 14.

She has maintained her innocence and alleged she was targeted because her office uncovered a huge string of "filthy" emails featuring porn and racial and religious jibes passed among employees of her predecessor's office, Tom Corbett,  a Republican, who went on to serve a term as governor of Pennsylvania.

The emails were discovered when Kane's office reviewed a slow-moving investigation of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who ultimately was charged and found guilty of molesting boys.

A state Supreme Court justice who had spread the emails resigned in the wake of the discovery. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released the emails to the public just last week.

Some of the emails were circulated by her nemesis, Fina, a former state prosecutor, who now works for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. 

Kane has apparently blamed Fina and others allied with him for her own legal woes.

She had shelved an investigation into Philadelphia politicians which Fina had overseen. The sting caught politicians, African-American Democrats, taking bribes on video. Kane, herself a Democrat, said the case showed racial prejudice and was not strong.

News of her decision to shelve the case was leaked to the Philadelphia Inquirer; Kane appears to believe Fina is behind that leak.

After Fina went to Philly DA Seth Williams' office, the cases moved forward and some of the politicians were found guilty.

In a payback move, Kane allegedly leaked information to the Philadelphia Daily News about a grand jury investigation that went nowhere that was overseen by Fina in an attempt to embarrass him.

The disciplinary board's actions and deliberations are supposed to be secret, so details of the notice to Kane are not clear. At least one activist has said he has filed a complaint against the attorney general.

The board can recommend an emergency temporary suspension in the case of  "egregious conduct." 

But the Supreme Court would ultimately decide Kane's fate, though even that decision is apparently not definitive and could lead to yet another legal battle.

A spokesman for the Administrative Office for the Pennsylvania Courts, Jim Koval, has told the Associated Press,  “The Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to remove her from office. She still holds the title.”

If Kane is ultimately stripped of her license, First Deputy Bruce Beemer, a former Allegheny County prosecutor, would function as attorney general.

Kane has a strained relationship with Beemer, who testified in the grand jury investigation that led to her indictment by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a Republican.