HARRISBURG - On the eve of a key decision by a Senate panel on whether Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane should remain in office, a House Republican legislator is proposing a separate investigation into whether she should be impeached.
State Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming) circulated a memo Tuesday to colleagues, saying he would introduce a resolution calling on the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Kane's "actions in office merit impeachment."
In an interview Tuesday, Everett, a member of the committee, said he believed that Kane, a Democrat who is facing criminal charges and has had her law license suspended, should be removed.
The state constitution allows impeachment for "any misbehavior in office," and Everett noted that Kane has been charged with perjury, conspiracy, and other crimes for allegedly leaking confidential grand jury information in an effort to discredit a political enemy.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think there was grounds to do this," the Republican legislator said, adding that he has the support of the committee's chairman, Ron Marsico (R., Dauphin).
Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo called the move premature.
"It puts the cart before the horse," said Ardo, noting that Kane has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the criminal charges. "She strongly believes that her legal process ought to play itself out before the legislature takes any action."
Kane has challenged the jurisdiction of a seven-member, bipartisan Senate committee formed last month to explore whether to remove her, saying it lacks the authority to decide if she can remain in the position to which she was elected.
The panel is expected to release its recommendation Wednesday on whether to move forward with formal proceedings to remove her.
The committee is operating under a rarely used provision in the constitution that allows the governor, after a two-thirds vote in the Senate, to remove certain elected officials for "reasonable cause."
Kane has said she believes that the only legal way to remove her is impeachment, a much lengthier process that starts in the House.
Committee members have been examining the narrow question of whether Kane, whose law license was suspended after she was criminally charged, can continue to run the Attorney General's Office.
Without an active license, Kane cannot make legal decisions in a job that requires her to do so.
Kane has said the majority of her work is administrative, and that she can continue to carry out "98 percent" of her duties.
But her top aides testified at one of the committee's hearings that the effects of Kane's suspension have been extraordinary, and that the office remains vulnerable to challenges to its authority the longer she remains the state's top law enforcement officer without the ability to practice law.
The constitution requires an attorney general to be a member of the bar.
Everett said Tuesday that he does not believe his impeachment resolution precludes the Senate from moving forward with its proceeding.
Kane has said that the criminal charges against her were "corruptly manufactured" by a group of angry Republican men who have tried to end her tenure because she uncovered a pornographic email ring involving current or former state and county prosecutors, judges, and even Supreme Court justices.
She has publicly released only some of those emails, while refusing to disclose others, leading to accusations that she is using the emails to target people she perceives as enemies or views as part of an attempt to end her political and legal career.
Last month, she outed Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin as among those who exchanged offensive emails. She also questioned two judicial reviews of the justice's messages, suggesting they gave him a pass.
The Judicial Conduct Board has launched a fresh inquiry into Eakin's emails, all of which were sent or received on a private account. They were captured on the attorney general's servers because one of the people on the email chains is a state prosecutor who was using his government email address.
The board, which investigates judicial misconduct allegations, said Tuesday it would soon decide whether charges are warranted.
In recent weeks, a group of Philadelphia legislators have questioned why Kane is being subjected to removal proceedings while some of the people who sent or received pornographic emails have not faced similar scrutiny.
Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Phila.) on Tuesday reiterated his call for Eakin to resign, and called for a special prosecutor to investigate those involved in the email scandal and whether it demonstrates, as Kane has maintained, a too-chummy relationship among judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
He also called on Kane to make all the emails public.
"Pennsylvania has a stain on its judicial system that needs to be wiped off, removed, and cleaned," Williams said at a news conference in the Capitol, flanked by Democrats from the House and Senate.