TOPEKA — A former deputy Kansas attorney general is trying to remove a member of the panel hearing an abortion-related ethics complaint against him because of her ties to a company that provided an answering service for a slain abortion provider.
The complaint against former Deputy Attorney General Eric Rucker stems from investigations of abortion provider George Tiller and a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2003-08 by the attorney general's office and the Johnson County district attorney's office.
Among other things, Rucker is accused of lying to the Kansas Supreme Court in arguments in 2005 in an abortion case, an allegation he denies.
A three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys plans to have a public hearing in Rucker's case on April 27-28. Rucker's ex-boss, former Attorney General Phill Kline, also faces an ethics complaint and a hearing on May 26-28.
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Rucker's attorney, Caleb Stegall, filed a request Thursday with the board seeking to have Patricia Dengler, a Wichita attorney, disqualified from the panel in Rucker's case.
Stegall's filing noted that Dengler has been listed as the registered agent for Physicians and Surgeons Exchange, which provided an answering service for Tiller, and that she failed to disclose the tie. Stegall said that Dengler had an obligation to disclose such information, regardless of whether she thought it was relevant.
"She never did," he said. "That deeply concerns me."
Board spokesman Ron Keefover said Dengler will consider whether to remove herself from the case. If she doesn't, the board's chairwoman will decide whether Dengler will participate.
If the panel decides Rucker should be sanctioned, it will recommend a punishment to the Kansas Supreme Court, which will have the final say. The court's majority already criticized Kline's conduct in a 2008 opinion.
An anti-abortion Republican, Kline served as attorney general in 2003-07, losing a bid for re-election in 2006. He then served as Johnson County district attorney in 2007-08, losing the GOP primary in 2008. Rucker was Kline's chief deputy in both offices and later became an assistant Jefferson County attorney. He's now retired.
Kline received national attention for his investigations of Tiller and Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park.
Tiller was prosecuted by the attorney general's office after Kline left, and a jury acquitted the doctor on all charges, less than three months before his murder in May 2009. A criminal case Kline filed as Johnson County prosecutor against the Planned Parenthood clinic is pending, tied up by legal issues before the Supreme Court.