HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Seven Pennsylvania senators are now weighing whether they should recommend that the full Senate move ahead with an unprecedented “direct removal” of embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
The seven are part of a special committee that held its third and final public hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Kane’s four top deputies testified that the attorney general never laid out a plan for exactly how the office would function once her law license was suspended. But they said they have the legal authority to continue the work of the office and they’re doing just that.
Committee chairman Senator John Gordner (R-Bloomsburg) asked a direct and basic question, “Is she able to represent the commonwealth and all commonwealth agencies with a suspended law license?”
“Not personally, but I believe the office can,” First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer said.
Beemer did concede that legal challenges are likely coming from anyone charged, investigated or convicted by the attorney general’s office since it doesn’t currently have a legally licensed attorney general.
“We deal with, unfortunately, a lot of very dangerous, very bad people; drug dealers, violent offenders,” Beemer said. “We are going to have to deal with creative defense attorneys making arguments to a vast array of judges.”
All four said they believe they are ultimately in good legal standing and the cases will pass muster. They were less sure in their answer to a simple question from Senate President Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).
“Is the attorney general coming to work?” Scarnati asked.
He was greeted with blank stares and silence.
Scarnati tried again, “Is she coming to work in your office?”
Again, there was an awkward pause from the deputies.
They then explained that the attorney general has offices all over the state, including her hometown of Scranton, and it’s possible she was working without their knowledge.
Finally, Executive Deputy Bob Mulle put the issue to bed.
“Because her license was suspended and she cannot practice law, there is not as much communication with her as there would be with an attorney general under normal circumstances,” he said.
Certainly, there is nothing normal about these circumstances. The Senate committee is exploring whether to apply Article VI, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania constitution that calls for the direct removal of elected officials. It has never been successfully implemented. It’s been on the books since the 1800’s.
Kane maintains it is being misapplied in her case. She believes a more traditional impeachment must be employed and that begins in the House, which has shown no willingness to take it up.
The committee is expected to recommend that the full Senate proceed with “direct removal” by next Wednesday. They have much to consider. Kane’s four deputies did not throw their boss under the bus, but they did make clear that no Kane certainly doesn’t mean no pain.
“Is there an impact? Yeah,” Executive Deputy James Donahue said.”There’s an impact that cases, especially complex cases, get further dragged out because of this.”