Even as state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane questions their authority, the seven members of a special state Senate panel considering her fate are facing an unusual challenge.
They must decide whether, for the first time, the Senate and the governor should remove an elected official: Pennsylvania's top law enforcement officer.
The group is made up of four Republicans and three Democrats, selected by leaders from both parties in the GOP-controlled upper chamber. Three are lawyers.
The plan is for the panel to have a series of public hearings over the coming month, starting Monday, to explore one issue: whether Kane is able to keep serving as attorney general even though her law license has been suspended.
The state Supreme Court pulled her license, effective Oct. 22, after she was charged with perjury and other crimes. Prosecutors in Montgomery County say Kane illegally leaked confidential grand jury material in a bid to plant a newspaper story to embarrass a critic and later lied about it under oath.
In all, Kane is charged with two felony counts of perjury and 10 misdemeanors, including charges of official oppression, obstruction, false swearing, and conspiracy.
The Senate plan was carefully designed to limit debate to the issue of the suspension. The body will not be taking up the other controversies of Kane's three years in office.
The Senate is moving forward under an obscure provision that, unlike the more well-known impeachment process, does not require any action by the state House.
Under the procedure now being pursued - and which Kane is fighting - the panel would vote at the end of the month on a report about the impact of the suspension.
If the committee concludes that Kane cannot do her job as attorney general with a suspended law license, it would then recommend to the full Senate that it vote to remove her.
Kane has insisted that she can do her job without a law license because, she says, most of her duties are administrative.
However, in a sign of the fractured atmosphere in her agency, four of her top deputies, including her first deputy, have signed a letter raising legal doubts about her ability to serve.
If approved by the committee, her removal would be put up for a vote in the 50-member Senate. For it to pass, two-thirds of the body would have to approve it.
Gov. Wolf has already said that Kane, a fellow Democrat, should step down. So there is little doubt that he would sign any Senate removal measure, the final step required for the attorney general's ouster.
Here are brief profiles of the seven panel members, starting with the Republicans:
Joe Scarnati, 53. He serves as ex officio member with full voting rights. The Senate's president pro tempore, Scarnati is the top Republican in the chamber, where he has served for 15 years. His district is centered in Jefferson County, northeast of Pittsburgh. His key policy focus has been on drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
John Gordner, 53. He is the panel's chair. Gordner is third in the GOP leadership in the Senate, helping to round up votes as its whip. A lawyer, he has served in the Senate for a dozen years. Before that, he was a state representative for 11 years, when he switched from Democrat to Republican. His district is centered in Columbia County, southwest of Scranton. Key issue: economic development.
Lisa Baker, 54. She has served in the Senate for nine years. She chairs the Labor and Industry Committee. Her district is centered in Luzerne County, where the county seat is Wilkes-Barre. Key issue: Jobs, especially finding work for the disabled.
Gene Yaw, 72. A lawyer, Yaw has served in the Senate since 2009. He chairs the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. His district is centered in Lycoming County, in central Pennsylvania. Key issues: natural gas drilling.
Here are profiles of the three Democrats.
Art Haywood, 58. He began serving in the Senate last year, after a primary win over incumbent LeAnna Washington, who was then awaiting trial on corruption charges - in a case brought by Kane. Washington later pleaded guilty. Haywood is a lawyer. His district straddles northwest Philadelphia and Cheltenham Township. Key issues: government accountability and transparency and fair funding for public schools.
Judy Schwank, 64. She has served in the Senate for four years. Her district includes parts of Berks County and its county seat, Reading. Schwank has called for Kane to step down, saying in August, "Fighting these charges will be a major distraction - not only for Attorney General Kane but for her entire staff." Key issues: improving public education - and moving away from property taxes as a way to fund it - and economic development.
Sean Wiley, 44. Elected to the Senate in 2012, Wiley is the minority-party chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee. His district is in Erie County, on Pennsylvania's western edge. Key issues: fair funding for public schools, community revitalization, and legalizing medical marijuana.