AP Bureau Chief John Hanna does a nice job of explaining why outgoing Attorney General Phill Kline filed charges against Dr. George Tiller just before Christmas.
Kline wasn't playing the Grinch. The longtime darling of the Religious Right was seeking vindication and a way to tangle incoming Attorney General Paul Morrison up in abortion politics, Hanna argues.
Kline leaves the attorney general's office on Jan. 8. Through a weird series of events, he takes over as Johnson County district attorney for Morrison -- the Democrat who creamed Kline at the polls in November.
Kline will presumably continue his battle against Planned Parenthood in Johnson County. However, his jurisdiction over Tiller, who works out of Wichita, ends when Kline leaves office as attorney general.
Ultimate vindication for Kline would be a successful criminal prosecution of Tiller. But Kline's loss to Morrison meant Kline almost certainly wouldn't finish a case before leaving office.Filing the case himself, of course, lead a judge to dismiss the charges almost as soon as they were filed. The judge said Kline didn't have jurisdiction.
However, he could begin one, raise questions about Tiller's activities, kick the anti-abortion propaganda apparatus into higher gear and create potential political problems for Morrison. Morrison then would face the choice of angering abortion-rights supporters or generating unending criticism from abortion opponents.
Kline could have forwarded his information to Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston for potential prosecution. However, he would have to take a chance that a Democrat many abortion opponents don't trust would file the case. The only way for him to be certain a case would get filed was to file it himself.