Attorney General Kathleen Kane contracted with Maryland’s former top law enforcement officer to pour over thousands of illicit emails, giving full subpoena and grand jury power to look for violations of criminal, civil or ethics law.
Taking the stage at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Kane believes she has the authority to make the appointment, and issued a warning to those who disagree: “And to the few who challenge it, including some members of my own staff, I pose a simple, three-pronged question: Are you a white male? Are you or one of your buddies in this email network? Are you trying to get my job without the benefit of having to run for it and being chosen by the people of Pennsylvania?”
Doug Gansler, the former attorney general of Maryland now of the law firm BuckleySandler LLP, was appointed to lead a team of investigators and has “the sword of prosecutorial powers to do so,” said Kane, the embattled first-term Democrat. She is facing several criminal charges for allegedly leaking grand jury material and lying about it under oath and had her law license suspended in October.
“You would imagine the way you create a team is by delegating your own authority to prosecute, but she doesn’t have the authority to prosecute,” said Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesnse University School of Law. “It would seem she would be precluded, but no one could say for sure because we are in uncharted waters with everything she does.”
Gansler, a Democrat, isn’t licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania. In 2003 he was formally reprimanded by the Maryland Court of Appeals for making extrajudicial remarks to the media when he was the Montgomery County State’s Attorney during some high-profile investigations. Those remarks “had a substantial likelihood of depriving several criminal defendants of fair trials,” according to Maryland Judge Lynne Battaglia, who wrote the court opinion. Gansler has said the reprimand was in retaliation for his criticism of a Montgomery County judge.
He and his team will conduct a wide-ranging investigation into emails that are demeaning to minorities, women, the LGBT community and religious groups, and were sent or received by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials on government computers, Kane said.
The scope of the investigation is “intentionally broad because we don’t know what’s in there,” Gansler said. “We are there to look at the facts and only the facts and where ever they take us.”
He later added, “I think there’s ample reason to believe that, based on what has been released to the public, based on the fact that public officials have lost their jobs, resigned their jobs, based on the representation made by people who have seen the emails … that this is far more than a fishing expedition.”
The firm will be paid by OAG funds.
Kane is currently managing the Office of Attorney General without a valid law license, but has delegated some authority to her deputies, including wiretap authority. Other duties are being “executed” by First Deputy Bruce Beemer as the office potentially faces a “myriad of legal challenges” from defense lawyers challenging the authority of the office.
Gansler said appointing special prosecutors is “by definition not practicing law because she is saying ‘you guys will be practicing law, I’m doing my administrative function.’”
However, it could lead to legal challenges.
“The special prosecutors will begin by investigating,” Ledewitz said. “If at some point they act like prosecutors, either by seeking a warrant or filing criminal charges, the object of those actions will challenge their authority.”