by Steven Ertelt
April 24, 2007
Topeka, KS (LifeNews.com) — A Kansas panel has thrown out a complaint against a judge who dismissed 30 charges the state attorney general filed against late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. The complaint said District Judge Paul W. Clark violated judicial conduct rules by not disclosing that Tiller contributed to his campaign.
Former Attorney General Phill Kline filed the misdemeanor charges against Tiller saying that he did illegal late-term abortions on women for reasons of "depression" rather than for legitimate medical concerns that state law requires.
At the urging of Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston, Judge Clark dismissed the charges.
However, Clark received campaign contributions from a law firm in 2004 that represents both Tiller and Foulston.
The seven member Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded that the complaint “contained no facts evidencing judicial misconduct” by Judge Clark in his handling of the illegal abortion case.
Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican who helped lead the effort to file the complaint, told the Associated Press he didn’t think the commission thoroughly investigated the complaint.
AP reported that Clark told the panel that he did not know who had contributed to his campaign because he says he didn’t read his campaigns own finance reports. He said the let his campaign treasurer handle all of the donations and didn’t pay attention to who contributed.
"I have never examined the public record of contributors to any campaign in which I was a candidate," Clark reportedly told the commission.
The panel released its decision in a letter to Troy Newman, president of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, which spearheaded the complaint.
“Without any knowledge of the campaign contributions, Judge Clark had no information to disclose" in the illegal abortion case, panel chairwoman Nancy Anstaett wrote. "This matter is now closed.”
Newman said in a statement sent to LifeNews.com that he responded with a letter of his own asking how the panel investigated the matter.
"We are asking for clarification to key facts in the investigation," Newman told LifeNews.com.
"Certainly they did not rely solely on the word of the man under investigation for ethics violations," said Newman. "There must have been more to their investigation than that."
"Almost everyone accused of wrong-doing will deny it, especially if there will be serious consequences to pay, as in this case. We are interested in seeing the statements that corroborated Clark’s denial," Newman concluded.
In filing the complaint, pro-life groups pointed to state ethics rules required a judge to recuse himself when involved in a case “in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
Huelskamp said the speed with which Clark dismissed the case raised eyebrows and that the judge didn’t disclose his campaign ties to the attorneys in the case.
Dan Monnat, the attorney who represents Tiller and whose firm donated to Clark, said the complaint was nothing more than a “last-gasp maneuver" by pro-life advocates who are upset that the charges have been dropped.
"I think it’s preposterous in Kansas that a judge should need to disqualify himself because lawyers have contributed to his campaign,” Monnat told AP. “It happens every day.”
Clark’s campaign received $500 from Monnat’s firm on July 1, 2004 and he also received a $500 contribution from Foulston and her husband on Sept. 28.