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September 21, 2015

Pa. Supreme Court temporarily suspends Kane's law license

Order can be petitioned, and does not call for her to step down

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law licence of Attorney General Kathleen Kane Monday leaving her ability to lead the office in limbo amid obstruction and perjury charges that have been brought against the state's top prosecutor. 

In an issued disciplinary order, the court unanimously decided to temporarily suspend her license to practice law. However, the court said the decision should not be interpreted as asking Kane to step down from elected office.

"This order should not be construed as removing [Kane] from elected office and is limited to the temporary suspension of her license to practice law," the court said in its order.

The order says Kane has the right to petition the suspension. 

Kane's licence was challenged by the state Disciplinary Board in August following charges that she leaked secret grand jury information in an attempt at political payback directed toward an employee of her office. 

While the office requires Kane be a member of the bar in order to serve, the Supreme Court does not have the authority to remove her from office, a fact that was made apparent by a spokesman for the Administrative Office for the Pennsylvania Courts at the time of the challenge and was seemingly reinforced in Monday's order.

Kane's office issued a statement following the order, stating that she was "disappointed" in the decision but was "grateful that the court recognized my constitutional rights both as a democratically elected official and as a citizen of the Commonwealth."

Since charges were brought against her by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office in August, Kane has claimed innocence. 

The charges stem from Kane allegedly leaking information to the Philadelphia Daily News about a grand jury investigation overseen by Frank Fina, a former state prosecutor.

The alleged leak was seen as payback for Fina supposedly giving information to the Philadelphia Inquirer about a shelved investigation into corruption among African-American Democratic politicians which showed them taking bribes on video. 

Kane said the case wasn't strong and showed racial bias, however when Fina brought the case to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, it led to some of the politicians being found guilty. 

Since then, the political feud has intensified when Kane revealed that Fina and others had exchanged explicit and racially charged emails. 

The e-mails were discovered accidentally when she investigated how her predecessor, Tom Corbett, carried out his investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was later convicted of sex crimes against boys.

Chuck Ardo, a spokesperson for Kane, said that she would be able to carry out the majority of her duties without the license.

He noted Kane would still set priorities within the office and determine the distribution of cases. 

Ardo also denied the notion that it would impact the workload of current personnel and said that the process of briefing staffers on the suspension was underway Monday.

"She certainly believes she can carry out her duties and still defend herself," Ardo said.

Reuters contributed to this report.