by Steven Ertelt
August 14, 2007
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — Lawyers for late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller filed legal papers Monday asking for a change of judge in the case involving potentially illegal late-term abortions Tiller did. The Kansas attorney general has filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller for not getting an impartial second opinion in the abortions.
Tiller’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s late-term abortion law in a first attempt to dismiss the charges.
Sedgwick County District Judge Tony Powell held an hour-long hearing on the statute on Friday, but the lawyers want him dismissed from hearing the case because he is a former state legislator who is pro-life.
According to AP, Tiller attorney Lee Thompson said Powell can’t be impartial in the case because the judge once accused Tiller of "defying legal and moral authority" and called abortion "the slaughter of the innocents."
Judge Powell accused Tiller of breaking the 1998 late-term abortion law shortly after its enactment, Thompson pointed out.
"Kansas law prohibits us from stating the grounds in the initial motion, and thus we can’t comment further," Thompson told AP about why the legal papers don’t state a reason for asking for Judge Powell’s dismissal.
The request is a retreat from the previous position Tiller’s attorneys took in the appointment of Powell as the judge in the case. They previously told the media, "We trust the court’s judgment in that regard."
Defense attorney Laura Shaneyfelt clarified those remarks in an AP interview and said Thompson was referring to the court not relying too heavily on an amicus brief submitted by Americans United for Life, a pro-life legal group.
The AUL amicus brief says the law is constitutional because of Supreme Court decisions on what states can do to limit abortions. The judge said none of that would influence his decision in the case.
Should he uphold the law, Tiller will go to trial on the charges, for which he pleaded not guilty. If Judge Powell overturns the law, any trial would be delayed until an appeal is heard in the case.
Tiller is charged with violating a statute requiring a second physician to sign off on any abortions done late in pregnancy.
The doctor must not have any financial connections with the abortion practitioner. Yet, in the 19 cases for which he has been charged, Tiller received a second opinion from abortion practitioner Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who Attorney General Paul Morrison said had financial ties with Tiller.
Judge Gregory Waller assigned Powell to the case and his decision came after pro-life groups said they weren’t concerned he could be impartial. Waller has received campaign contributions from a political group affiliated with Tiller.
Morrison ended up filing a defense of the law with the court on Tuesday and Tiller’s lawyers responded on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Kansans for Life told LifeNews.com recently that it is collecting the signatures necessary to compel a grand jury to conduct an independent investigation into whether Tiller violated the law in subsequent years. He has been charged with violations in 2003 but the pro-life organization says he could have violated the law on late-term abortions done from 2004-2007.