HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It is officially called the Special Committee on Senate Address. It’s a big title and it officially met for the first time in Harrisburg on Monday.
By the end of the month, the committee may come to an historic decision to recommend that the full Senate move ahead with the direct removal of Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
The committee has three Republicans and three Democrats and it’s exploring Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution that gives the Senate the power to remove elected officials after a full hearing and a two-thirds vote. It is an obscure clause that’s been on the books for centuries but never successfully implemented. The committee was formed after the Supreme Court suspended Kane’s law license and its first hearing zeroed in on one question.
“We have one task at hand and that is to determine whether or not a person with a suspended license can operate the office of attorney general,” said Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie), a committee member.
The nearly two-hour hearing involved three district attorneys from across the commonwealth. They are from different parties but all had the same answer to that key question.
“Could I perform the job for which I was elected to do in Somerset County as the district attorney? I could not,” Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, a Democrat, said.
Bucks County DA David Heckler, a Republican, shook his head at the thought of doing his job without a law license.
“Virtually every part of it is based on the fact that I’m a lawyer, that I have legal experience on making legal judgements,” Heckler said.
Berks County’s John Adams, a Democrat, concurred with his colleagues.
“Not a day goes by, not a decision goes by, that is not directly related to me being a lawyer,” Adams testified.
Kathleen Kane disagrees. She insists that she can run the state attorney general’s office without a license and maintains that most of the job is managerial, not legal. She sent a letter to the Senate committee, basically saying she wouldn’t cooperate because she doesn’t believe it has standing. Kane thinks the Senate is misinterpreting the direct removal clause in her case.
Committee Chairman Senator John Gordner (R-Columbia) confirmed Monday that Kane was successfully served with a subpoena last Friday and has until this Friday to turn over documents about how she’s running the office with a suspended law license.
“We are hopeful she will, in fact, provide us the documentation so we can understand fully how that office is currently operating,” Gordner said.
Harrisburg author Bill Keisling is a member of Citizens 4 Kane. He was in the hearing and believes the Senate is overstepping its constitutional bounds.
“This was a kangaroo court,” Keisling said. “If this is really a backdoor impeachment, it ought to be conducted by the House with the full protections of a House impeachment.”
Kane faces felony perjury charges. She is accused of intentionally leaking grand jury secrets and then lying about it under oath. She maintains the charges are trumped up and an attempt to silence her because she had knowledge of a pornographic email chain that includes prominent judges, prosecutors and politicians.
The special committee will have another hearing next week focusing on the constitutionality of the direct removal clause. It is expected to wrap up its work and recommend whether or not the full Senate should move forward with Kane’s ouster by Thanksgiving.