by Steven Ertelt
August 17, 2007
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — A Kansas judge has removed himself from a case involving 19 misdemeanor charges filed against late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. The state’s attorney general has accused Tiller of violating a law that requires a second, independent physician to sign off on the late-term abortions.
Tiller’s lawyers responded to the charges by filing a lawsuit contending the law is unconstitutional and challenging Sedgwick County District Judge Anthony Powell.
Attorney Lee Thompson claimed Powell, a former state legislator, 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."
Powell accused Tiller of breaking the 1998 late-term abortion law shortly after its enactment, Thompson pointed out.
On Friday, Powell bowed out from overseeing hearings in the case.
"In a high profile case such as this where the judiciary is on trial as much as the defendant, even a hint of impropriety or even the slightest appearance of partiality must be dealt with to protect our system of justice," Powell said, according to an AP report.
"While I have no doubt of my actual ability to be impartial, I have to acknowledge that such comments do raise a question of the appearance of impartiality," Powell added.
The judge also said that if Tiller’s attorneys contended that he couldn’t be impartial because of his pro-life views, they should also challenge any judge who has publicly supported abortion.
"If having pro-life views would be grounds for recusal, having pro-choice views would be equal grounds for recusal," he said.
Thompson told AP Powell’s decision to step down was the right thing to do.
Ashley Anstaett, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul Morrison, told the news service that he isn’t surprised by the decision and that Powell’s recusal won’t affect his approach to the case.
The case now goes back to Judge Gregory Waller to be reappointed to another judge.
Cheryl Sullenger, of Operation Rescue, commented on Powell’s decision and said that she hopes other judges will be as forthright in stating any reasons for recusal. She said that especially applies to some who have political connections to Tiller.
Mary Kay Culp, the director of Kansans for Life, talked with LifeNews.com about the decision and the hypocrisy of Tiller’s attorneys.
"Tiller’s lawyers approved of Powell last week and then fudged the truth later saying they only approved of his accepting friend of the court brief — which actually happened later in the day," she said.
"I have the highest respect for Judge Powell as a judge and as a person and evidently he did what he thought he had to do," she added. "All any of us can do is pray that some kind of justice can be done regarding Tiller."
Other judges who have been involved with Tiller cases have come under a cloud of suspicion because of undisclosed financial connections to Tiller or his attorneys.
Judge Paul Clark, who dismissed 30 criminal charges brought by former Attorney General Phill Kline, withstood an ethics investigation only because it could not be proved that he actually saw his campaign finance reports that included donations from Tiller and others associated with him
Judge Waller, also had received campaign contributions from Tiller’s attorneys.
Related web sites:
Kansans for Life – https://www.kfl.org