Kathleen Kane was practicing law by news release
A Nov. 10 news release issued by Attorney General Kathleen Kane was rich with irony. It began: “Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced a legal settlement with the company Christi L. Jones and Associates, Inc., and its president, Christi Jones.”
Kane alleged that Jones, of Schuylkill County, represented herself as an attorney by advertising and offering to investigate, enforce and recover unpaid judgments.
Kane no longer was a Pennsylvania attorney with an active law license when she issued the release. Her license was suspended last month by the state Supreme Court after criminal charges were filed against her in Montgomery County. She is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and oppression stemming from a grand jury leak last year of 2009 secret documents. Prosecutors say the leak was intended to embarrass a rival prosecutor.
On Thursday, a special Senate Committee issued a report to the full Senate that could result in Kane eventually being removed from office if Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf agrees.
The reason the news release is worth mentioning is the wording: “Kane announced a legal settlement.”
It's not unlike others she has issued, such as one on Nov. 20: “Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a West Chester sports apparel company.”
Beth Weisser, a legal ethics expert and partner with Fox Rothschild law firm, recently told the Senate committee that a duty of suspended attorneys is to stop using any communication that implies they are active lawyers. That would include items such as websites and business cards, she said. When Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne County, a committee member, asked Weisser whether that would extend to the attorney general's letterhead and title, Weisser replied that it's “problematic.”
Asked later whether she thinks that applies to Kane's news releases and if Kane should refrain from calling herself “attorney general,” Weisser said, “Yes — any communication, publication or dissemination of information.”
The problem was Kane implying that she reached the legal settlement or that she filed the lawsuit. With her license suspended, she is not even supposed to approve those types of actions.
A very subtle change occurred later last week. An apostrophe and one word made the difference.
A release on Nov. 24 stated: “Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office today announced criminal charges have been filed against three Pennsylvania men for their alleged involvement in a series of burglaries in the western part of the state.”
Kane's top aides, concerned about the appearance that she continues to practice law, decided that type of change was needed.
“It seemed like a really minor change, and certainly it shouldn't raise any alarm any quarter,” said Kane's spokesman, Chuck Ardo.
“I think there was a recognition that there were divergent opinions,” Ardo said. “We chose to fall on the side of caution. We made the decision on our own.”
What Kane thought about it was not clear It's not very probable that she liked it. And more heads could roll.
Brad Bumsted is the Trib's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or [email protected]).