Tweets Reveal the Soul of Assault on Pro-Life AG
Forget the sweet, bubbly Elle Woods character in Legally Blonde. One suspects that the smug, vulgar Sarah Peterson Herr hews much closer to the norm of today's twenty-something female attorney.
Before her termination on Monday, Herr clerked for the Honorable Christel E. Marquardt, judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals. She was fired for sending a series of nasty tweets while sitting in last week on an ethics hearing for former Kansas attorney general, Phill Kline.
If there is a pro-life Hall of Fame, Kline deserves his own display case. First as attorney general of Kansas and then as the prosecutor for its most populous county, Kline led a one-man assault against the state's notoriously corrupt abortion industry, anchored by Planned Parenthood in suburban Kansas City and the late George Tiller's clinic in Wichita.
What made Kline's job all the more maddening was that he was elected attorney general as a Republican the same year, 2002, that Kathleen Sebelius was elected governor as a Democrat. Her administration did everything in its power, legal and otherwise, to thwart Kline's investigations. And with the full-throated support of the local media, Sebelius finally succeeded in driving Kline from office.
Before being forced out, however, Kline brought criminal charges against Planned Parenthood; he was the first prosecutor ever to do so. Kline's investigation revealed, among other problems, that Planned Parenthood reported, as required by law, only one case of child sexual abuse despite seeing hundreds of such cases. These charges had national implications.
Although the Kansas state government has returned to conservative rule, the state judiciary remains in the hands of Sebelius appointees and their allies, and they have not forgiven Kline his effrontery. Wanting to make an example of him lest some other prosecutor challenge Planned Parenthood in the future, activists on the Supreme Court launched a protracted ethics probe into Kline's handling of his investigation into the state's abortion industry.
The Court appointed the ethics prosecutor and was set to make the final decision until Kline filed a motion to remove the justices. The motion pointed out that Sebelius appointees had misrepresented the record and wrongfully interfered with a legitimate investigation. They had even silenced a witness who had incriminated Planned Parenthood in criminal activity. After Kline filed the motion, five justices removed themselves from the case.
The oral argument on Thursday took place in Topeka before two sitting Supreme Court justices and five specially appointed justices. Herr was not pleased. Operating under the screen name "sparklylillife," she tweeted, "Thanks for kicking out the SC Phil! Good call!" As these Kafkaesque proceedings played out, Herr busily tweeted several interested colleagues. At least four of them responded, all of them in the affirmative.
There is only one Appellate Court in Kansas, and it is in the same building as the Supreme Court. The Kline people have long complained about a corrupt court culture, and nothing in Herr's tweets put their minds at rest. She obviously felt right at home in the court's liberal ambience. "I'm a little like superman," she tweeted shortly before the election, "with my @barackobama shirt under my sweater."
Herr got her law degree from Washburn University in Topeka. The judge for whom she clerks, Christel E. Marquardt, was appointed to university's Board of Regents by then-Gov. Sebelius, a proud public champion of Planned Parenthood.
What makes Herr's comments all the more disturbing is that law clerks are typically the ones who do the majority of research and write the court's preliminary decisions. "You can watch that naughty naughty boy, Mr. Kilein [sic], live!" Herr tweets at the beginning of the proceedings, supplying the appropriate link. In another tweet, she claims that "his witch hunt helped lead to Dr. Tiller's murder."
Herr is clearly no fan of Kline, nor a model of decorum. She asks rhetorically early in the proceedings, "Why is Phil Klein [sic] smiling? There is nothing to smile about, douchebag." An hour later, based perhaps on inside information, Herr attempts to foretell Kline's future: "I predict that he will be disbarred for a period not less than 7 years."
Before the proceedings were over, Herr sent ten more snarky, self-satisfied tweets, seemingly secure in her belief that no one in her legal circle would find them inappropriate. Kline's attorney, Tom Condit, most certainly did. Based on Herr's comments, he worried that the court had decided Kline's fate even before reviewing the evidence.
"This is a troubling revelation that is degrading to the Kansas Appellate Courts," said Condit. "The unavoidable question is: how prevalent is that attitude elsewhere on the court staff? This will not enhance public confidence in the courts. An investigation is warranted. I will await further developments."
The Kline team, however, does not see Herr's termination as a long-term solution. As they see it, the outrageous nature of the tweets and their easy acceptance by Herr's colleagues speak to a much graver problem than Herr's employment. They would like to see an independent investigation, conducted by an entity other than the court itself.
In truth, Herr's tweets speak to a larger problem still, and that is the takeover of America's legal system by a new breed of attorneys just as naïve as Elle Wood but nowhere near as nice. If you want to scare yourself about the future, think Chief Justice Sandra Fluke.