TOPEKA | Kansas’ former deputy attorney general acknowledged Thursday what his attorney called technical violations of state ethics rules arising from investigations of abortion providers.
But the professional misconduct case against Eric Rucker also narrowed significantly. The state’s attorney disciplinary administrator agreed to seek at most a public censure of Rucker over actions related to investigations of the late Dr. George Tiller of Wichita and Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Overland Park.
Rucker agreed to testify if called during an ethics hearing scheduled in November for former Attorney General Phill Kline. Rucker was Kline’s chief deputy when Kline was attorney general in 2003-07 and again when Kline served as Johnson County district attorney in 2007-08.
Rucker and the disciplinary administrator’s office presented their agreement to a three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys at the start of a hearing Thursday. The panel will recommend to the Supreme Court on whether Rucker should be sanctioned.
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Rucker originally faced allegations of making false statements to others — including the Supreme Court — to further investigations of abortion providers. Rucker denied misleading others and in the agreement said his violations of ethics rules “did not involve any dishonest conduct.”
“Not a single allegation from the original complaint remains,” Rucker’s attorney Caleb Stegall told the panel.
Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett declined to respond to Stegall’s comments.
The issues in Rucker’s case now center on whether he should have clarified or checked the accuracy of statements to others about the abortion investigations.
Tiller, one of the few doctors in the nation who provided late-term abortions, was acquitted in 2009 of misdemeanor charges filed by Kline’s successor as attorney general. That was just weeks before Tiller was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist.
A criminal case filed by Kline as Johnson County district attorney against the Planned Parenthood clinic is still pending, but is tied up with legal issues before the Supreme Court.
In Rucker’s case, two remaining issues involve a statement he made to the Supreme Court in 2005, when it heard arguments in a dispute between the attorney general’s office and Tiller and Planned Parenthood over subpoenas for patient medical records.
Rucker told the court the attorney general’s office wasn’t trying to learn the identity of any adult women who’d had abortions, only underage girls who obtained them after being sexually abused.
Kline had described his investigation as an attempt to determine whether the clinics were reporting such abuse to authorities, as required by law. None of the eventual charges against Tiller or Planned Parenthood’s clinic involved that issue.
In the agreement, Rucker said his statement to the Supreme Court was accurate to his knowledge at the time, but under ethics rules, he should have checked its accuracy.
He also acknowledged violating ethics rules by not supplementing a statement to the disciplinary administrator’s office about the same issue to “correct any misapprehension.”
The final issue involves a statement Rucker made to the Supreme Court during its 2005 arguments that the attorney general’s office also was pursuing cases of underage girls who’d been sexually abused and given birth.
At the time, the attorney general’s office had not contacted any doctors, hospitals or clinics about live births. The court asked Rucker whether it had subpoenaed any, and he said no — without saying none had even been contacted.
Hazlett’s office maintains Rucker had a duty to clarify the statement after the arguments. Stegall disagreed, saying such a duty would amount to forcing attorneys to guess at and answer potential questions.