- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Friday that a bipartisan Senate committee looking into the possibility of removing her lacks authority to obtain documents from her office, and she asserted that the only way she can be removed from her elected position is by impeachment.

The committee unsuccessfully sought to serve a subpoena Friday after Kane refused to turn over documents the committee requested a week earlier. Her spokesman said no one in the executive offices had the authority to accept it on her behalf.

The committee was scheduled to hold its first hearing Monday in the Capitol.

In a six-page letter responding to the committee, Kane, a Democrat, said the state constitution allows her removal only through a formal impeachment process that starts in the state House of Representatives. She traced the evolution of the state constitution back to the 19th century to support her interpretation.

“This committee has no authority under the Pennsylvania constitution and the longstanding precedent to remove an attorney general by means other than impeachment, after a conviction,” she said.

Drew Crompton, chief counsel to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, disagreed with Kane, and said Scarnati remains convinced that the Senate’s approach is legally sound. Senate officials researched the constitutional issues extensively before the special panel was appointed Oct. 26, Crompton said.

“The contentions that she makes in the letter are not grounded on our interpretation and the historical analysis that we’ve done,” he said.

Crompton said lawyers for the attorney general’s office and the Senate had discussed the subpoena and that he expected it to be re-delivered sometime Friday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted unanimously in September to suspend Kane’s law license. The order took effect Oct. 22. The suspension stems from allegations that Kane leaked secret investigative information to a newspaper last year and then lied under oath about it. Montgomery County authorities charged Kane in August with perjury, obstruction and other crimes.

The six-senator committee is operating under an obscure provision of the state constitution and using a process that is not firmly established. It is focused on Kane’s ability to function as attorney general without a law license, not the separate criminal charges.

In its Oct. 29 letter to Kane, the committee asked for all documents, including emails, that describe the operation of the office since her license was suspended.

Among other things, it also sought all communications involving the suspension between Kane and her employees, and a description of any duties and functions that Kane has delegated to others in the office because of the suspension.

The panel, named the Special Committee on Senate Address, is scheduled to submit its preliminary findings to the full Senate by Nov. 25. It comprises three Democratic senators and three Republican senators. Scarnati is an ex-officio member.


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