HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It was a little-known and never used provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution: Article VI, Section 7.
On Friday, the state Senate thrust it into the limelight for the first time since it was written in the 1800’s and suggested it might need to invoke it against embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Article VI, Section 7:
All civil officers elected by the people, except the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the Governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate.
The Senate will form a bipartisan committee Monday to explore Article VI, Section 7. It will have 30 days to recommend whether or not the full Senate should pursue it for Kane’s removal. The attorney general’s law license was suspended this week.
“Senator Scarnati called it ‘the tipping point.’ I think that’s a fair characterization,” said Drew Crompton, general counsel to Senate Republicans.
Crompton said numerous lawyers for the Senate and the governor’s office have looked at the issue and agree they are on solid legal footing.
But there is disagreement from Kathleen Kane.
“She believes they are taking the wrong path,” her spokesman Chuck Ardo said.
The Kane camp believes any move to oust the AG is premature and the Senate should wait until the legal process has taken its course. They further believe that Article VI, Section 7 is being misapplied in this instance. They argue that the charges against Kane should be handled by a more traditional impeachment, which is a different process entirely.
“Article VI, Section 7 is for removal of people that are incapacitated, either physically or mentally,” Ardo argued.
But where there are lawyers, there are disagreements. The Senate sees it differently.
“The framers wrote this in the case if there was not a conviction, could you still find reasonable cause to remove someone from office,” Crompton said.
Kane lost her law license after being charged with felonies. She’s accused of twice perjuring herself to a grand jury, but she hasn’t been convicted and maintains her innocence.
Article VI, Section 7 is not considered lightly, Crompton insists.
“The removal of a public officer, no less the attorney general of Pennsylvania, is a grave circumstance,” he said.
Crompton says the Senate committee’s real mission is to investigate and figure out whether Kane can fulfill her duties without her law license.
“She certainly believes she can do most of it,” Ardo insists. “She can continue to be the administrator.”
Though Kane has claimed in the past that partisan politics are behind her unraveling, Governor Wolf, a Democrat, has called for her resignation. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, wasn’t that direct but basically agrees.
“There’s no question having the attorney general not having a law license is a dramatic impact, at least in my view, on her ability to carry out the duties of the office,” DePasquale said.
The bipartisan Senate committee will consist of three Democrats and three Republicans and member names will be announced Monday.
Since Kane has claimed that “good old boys” in Harrisburg are out to get her, it is all but guaranteed at least one woman will be on the committee.