Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Phill Kline loses badly on federal teen sex case

Judge rules against Kline on teen sex case:
A federal judge in Wichita ruled this afternoon that the Kansas attorney general overstepped the intent of lawmakers in a legal opinion concerning the sexual privacy of teenagers.… Marten ruled in a 39-page opinion that health care providers should have discretion in what they are required to report to state law enforcement and social workers concerning the sexual activity of their patients under the age of 16.

As a result, Marten's ruling prevents law officers and prosecutors from enforcing a stricter interpretation of the law, as stated three years ago in a legal opinion by Kline.

Kline's office said the judge did what the attorney general had hoped for in upholding the Kansas child abuse reporting law as constitional.…

Marten, however, also ruled that Kline's efforts to narrow the interpretation of the law wasn't proper. A legal opinion offered by Kline in 2003 could have forced health care professionals to report most sexual activity among their patients under the age of 16.
And since the latter part was what was actually at issue, Kline's attempt to save face doesn't cut it. As the ruling notes, Kline overruled a 1992 opinion by preventing a mandatory reporter from having any discretion about whether a minor was injured by sexual contact. Kline declared nearly all sexual contact as injurious. The suit does not seem to have challenged the law itself, merely the interpretation Kline offered for it.

Kline is chastised for misreading the plain text of the law, and having rewritten the law in his opinion, is taken to the woodshed : "An executive branch official, such as the Attorney General, cannot effectively amend legislation by reinterpreting its language through an 'advisory' opinion."

The court noted that one of Kline's witnesses claimed that all sexual contact between minors was injurious, but does not personally report all such contact, and judged his testimony to be unreliable. The judge wrote "To provide sweeping generalizations on what constitutes an injury and then testify that they do not apply a similar standard in their own clinical practices undermines these doctors’ credibility, particularly when the doctors claim early sexual debut has considerable dire consequences." Kline's other expert witnesses were similarly contradictory, evasive, and unreliable.

Kline has previously said that he expects to win this case on appeal, but he seems to have put on too poor a case to make that stick.