HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A committee will recommend to the full Senate next week whether or not to move ahead with Article VI, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the direct removal of embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
On Tuesday, it held its second public hearing but made news afterward by announcing its third and final hearing Wednesday afternoon would include four of Kane’s top deputies. They are expected to give testimony about how the office is functioning with a boss that has a suspended law license.
A leaked memo that all four signed suggests that they think she can’t fulfill most of her duties, despite her claims that she can.
But that should be sorted out on Wednesday. On Tuesday, three constitutional law experts took a stab at a basic question: can an attorney general legally do her job without a law license? They didn’t say definitively yes she can. They didn’t say definitively no she can’t.
“It’s clear to everyone that the person that would attain that office – attorney general – and hold that office would have to be a practicing member of the bar of Pennsylvania,” said Bruce Antkowiak, a professor at St. Vincent’s College.
But Antkowiak also noted that in Kane’s case it may be more appropriate for the Legislature to go the traditional impeachment process, which must begin in the House. That’s Kane’s belief and she questions the legitimacy of the Senate committee.
Beth Weisser, an ethics attorney and partner at Fox Rothschild, also helped to muddy the waters for committee members.
“I think there’s an argument to be made that an individual with a suspended law license is still a quote member of the bar,” Weisser said.
Senate president Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) is less burdened by legal nuance and minutiae. He sees it much more clearly. He said if a driver loses his license, he can’t drive. If a barber loses his license, he can’t barber. If a doctor loses his license, he can’t see patients.
“And I would assume that we have one set of licensing, or am I missing another set for attorneys?” Scarnati asked.
Kane insists Article VI, Section 7 doesn’t apply to her. She can only be removed, she maintains, by impeachment. Do the constitutional experts agree with that, one senator asked?
They refused to answer.
“That’s why they pay you the big money,” Antkowiak said with a shrug and a laugh.
“I wish we could be more help,” added Robert Davis Jr., a professor of law at Widener’s Commonwealth campus. “But you’re making law.”
The committee is making law and it’s making history. The Direct Removal clause, on the books since the 1800’s, has been used exactly once, unsuccessfully, more than 100 years ago.
“This is a matter upon which feet have not tread at this point,” Antkowiak said.
The committee is made up of three Democrats, three Republicans plus Scarnati and it must decide by next week whether to recommend that the full Senate move ahead with Kane’s direct removal.
“We’re operating outside the context of precedent,” said Senator Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia). “One of the speakers said we’re pioneers, which is a difficult position to be in.”