Pa. Supreme Court to take up Kane's challenge to special prosecutor
Is Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane trying to put herself beyond the reach of the law? Or is it a special prosecutor who is operating in illegal territory?
Is Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane trying to put herself beyond the reach of the law?
Or is it a special prosecutor who is operating in illegal territory?
That's the issue Pennsylvania's Supreme Court will take up Wednesday as it hears oral arguments in Kane's challenge to the special prosecutor who wants her arrested for allegedly violating grand-jury secrecy laws.
The five justices - two of the court's seats are currently vacant - will hear from lawyers for Kane and special prosecutor Thomas E. Carluccio in a case crucial to Kane's personal and political future.
After a seven-month investigation that included testimony from Kane and many of her top aides, a grand jury led by Carluccio concluded in December the attorney general had illegally leaked confidential information to embarrass a political foe and then lied about it to the jury.
Kane has admitted providing information to the Philadelphia Daily News for a story but said the material she approved for release was not covered by secrecy laws.
The grand jury voted to recommend that Montgomery County's district attorney bring criminal charges against Kane, a Democrat. But before that could happen, the attorney general's legal team - she has six lawyers - won a Supreme Court ruling barring any charges until after it rules on Kane's contention that the special prosecutor has no legal standing.
In her filings, Kane has argued that no state law permitted Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter to appoint Carluccio to investigate leaks.
They have stressed that Pennsylvania's brief stab at creating an independent counsel act lasted only five years and expired a decade ago.
In separate legal briefs filed with the high court, Carluccio and Carpenter, both Republicans, say that judges, before and after the independent counsel law, have had authority to appoint special prosecutors to investigate leaks from grand juries.
Carpenter said Kane was using flawed arguments to exempt herself from investigation. "Citizen Kane," he wrote, "should be treated no better than any other citizen."
For the state's high court, the case is a high-stakes, high-profile affair that casts a spotlight on its new chief justice, Thomas G. Saylor, a Republican.
Saylor replaced longtime Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, who stepped down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Kane's problems stem from a Daily News article published in June 2014.
The article, based on documents from the Attorney General's Office, suggested a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina, failed to investigate allegations that J. Whyatt Mondesire, a Philadelphia civil rights leader, had misspent government money on himself.
Fina and Mondesire have said the allegations against them were false.
Kane said she put the story out to fulfill a campaign pledge to be transparent about the way her office operates. Her detractors say she exhumed a stale and secret case - the Mondesire grand jury probe dated to 2009 - to tarnish Fina.
Before Kane took office, Fina had launched an undercover sting that caught five elected officials from Philadelphia on tape accepting cash - and in one case, a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet - from an undercover agent posing as a lobbyist.
Kane faced intense criticism after The Inquirer disclosed in March 2014 that she had shut the case down once she inherited it, without bringing any charges.
Carpenter began the grand jury investigation in May. He ordered the inquiry even before the Daily News article was published, acting after Fina and another former state prosecutor said they had been contacted by a reporter who asked questions about confidential material.