Pennsylvania's Top Lawyer Fights for Clearly Illegal Law Silencing Prisoners and Journalists Who Cover Them
In July 2013 Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane made a bold move when she refused to defend a Pennsylvania state law in federal court that banned same-sex marriage. Terming that ban “wholly unconstitutional,” Kane declared that ethical directives applicable to lawyers barred her from defending a "legally indefensible" law.
“If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that as a lawyer,” Kane told a reporter in 2013 a year after her successful campaign to become the state's first female attorney general. (Kane endorsed gay marriage during her campaign.)
It looks like that self-imposed proscription of Kane's against acting unconstitutionally has a lot of flexibility built into it, though.
Today, two years after Kane’s bold refusal to defend the indefensible same-sex marriage ban, her office is in federal court defending a law hastily approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican controlled state legislature last fall that clearly does not conform with rights protections in either the Pennsylvania or U.S. constitutions.
The constitutionally-challenged law Kane now defends would cripple press freedom, free speech and other constitutionally protected rights. Unlike the same-sex marriage ban Kane earlier refused to defend, this new law she now is going to bat for in court does not afford her societal kudos or potential campaign contributions.
The law Kane is now fighting to uphold was devised specifically to silence the criticisms and critiques of prison inmates, but beyond that, it will also adversely impact civilians who monitor prison issues, rights activists and journalists, barring them from doing their work on prison-related issues.
Further, the unconstitutional law Kane now willingly defends gives prosecutors across the state of Pennsylvania –- both state AGs and local District Attorneys -– a legal cloak to hide their misconduct and unconstitutional actions from public scrutiny.
Ironically, evidence of that misconduct is evident in Kane’s current fight in another federal courtroom to block a new trial for two inmates currently serving life sentences whose appeal is based on alarming evidence of gross misconduct by the Kane's own Attorney Generals Office. The silencing law Kane defends would give her (and other prosecutors statewide) another weapon to quash inmates who try to expose lawlessness by law enforcers.
Kane’s office has mounted a vigorous defense of the “Revictimization Relief Act” –- a law that grants prosecutors the authority to file lawsuits to protect victims of crime from activities that they claim “perpetuate the continuing effect of the crime” on the victim.