HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane can remain the state's highest law enforcement official even with a suspended law license, Pennsylvania's top jurist said Monday.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor said the high court's decision to suspend Kane's license "is in no way constitutionally disabling." He said Kane remains a member of the bar in Pennsylvania - a requirement, under the state constitution, for anyone to be attorney general.
"An attorney who is the attorney general, and is suspended, is still a member of the bar of the Supreme Court, because the suspension is just temporary," Saylor said during a speech at the monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg. "That could be dealt with very quickly. . . . There could be a reinstatement, and a member could be again able to practice law."
Saylor would not say whether he believed Kane should remain in office.
"I have absolutely no view on that," he said. "I think that's a purely personal matter."
Saylor noted that the state constitution contains provisions for removing a public official from office. They include a never-used process in which an official may be removed by the governor "for reasonable cause," after a hearing and a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Senate Republican leaders have said they are researching the option in Kane's case.
Last week, the Supreme Court suspended Kane's license as a result of the criminal charges she faces, reviving debate over whether she should resign.
Kane, 49, the state's first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general, was charged last month with conspiracy, perjury, and other crimes, accused of leaking confidential grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News. She did so, prosecutors say, in an attempt to embarrass a former top prosecutor in her office with whom she was feuding.
She has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the charges. Kane has vowed to remain in office, although last week, she signaled for the first time that she might not be able to run for reelection next year with a suspended license.
Saylor said Monday that a suspended law license means Kane is hampered in carrying out the duties of her office. For instance, he said, she cannot sign legal documents, including documents authorizing criminal charges.
Saylor said Kane can request a hearing before the state Judicial Disciplinary Board, which petitioned the Supreme Court for her suspension. Kane has not said whether she intends to do so.