Pennsylvania Senate plans vote this week on AG Kane removal
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The top-ranking Republican in the state Senate said Monday the chamber will vote this week on whether to remove from office Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a first-term Democrat who has spent the past two years working to expose an explicit and objectionable government email ring and the past six months fighting her own criminal charges related to a grand jury leak.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson, announced the plans for a Wednesday vote under an obscure provision of the state Constitution that, unlike the impeachment procedure, does not have any role for the House. At least 33 yes votes will be required in the 50-seat Senate, which currently has one vacancy.
Kane has repeatedly said the single-chamber procedure in the Senate is illegal, but her spokesman declined to speculate about what action she might take if the supermajority of senators votes to remove her.
“The attorney general believes the Senate’s action is unwarranted and unconstitutional, that our system of justice is founded on a presumption of innocence and she is not being offered that presumption,” her spokesman Chuck Ardo said.
The plans for a vote followed a ruling Friday by the state Supreme Court that denied Kane’s request to have her law license reinstated.
The high court voted 5-0 in September to place her license on temporary, indefinite suspension.
Kane has argued that vote was improper because of the participation of Justice Michael Eakin, whose salacious emails are among those Kane has made public. Eakin is suspended with pay while he awaits trial by a judicial ethics court; he has apologized for “insensitive” emails but argued his role doesn’t merit discipline.
The vote also comes after a series of fact-finding meetings by the Special Committee on Senate Address, which split along party lines last month in recommending a floor vote on Kane’s ouster.
Kane has argued most of her office’s duties don’t require a valid law license, although her senior deputies told the committee in November they worried her status could expose the office to legal attacks from defense attorneys. Her second-in-command, Bruce Beemer, testified her lack of a law license was an “enormous challenge” that caused him great concern.
Kane was given the opportunity to testify before the special committee but declined to do so, instead submitting a written statement and sending her chief of staff to speak on her behalf. She told the committee her removal by the Senate alone would deprive her and all state residents of constitutional protections.
Scarnati aide Drew Crompton said the Senate process for Wednesday’s session will be outlined in a resolution expected to be made public Tuesday. He said Kane will not be given a chance to address the Senate.
Kane was charged in August by prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia with leaking secret grand jury material to the Philadelphia Daily News and lying under oath. She has denied wrongdoing, and her trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 8.
The Legislature’s most recent similar proceeding occurred in 1994, when the House impeached state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen before the Senate voted to remove him.
This time, the Senate plans to use the Removal of Civil Officers section of the Constitution, which says all elected civil officers “shall be removed by the governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate.”
Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat who has called for Kane’s resignation, has made conflicting statements about how he sees his role.
The removal vote comes as Kane and at least three other Democrats are circulating petitions to get on the ballot for the April 26 primary. A state senator, John Rafferty, of Montgomery County, is seeking the Republican nomination.