TOPEKA – Attorney General Stephen Six is resisting a subpoena from a Sedgwick County grand jury investigating Wichita abortion provider George Tiller.
Six asked the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday to quash the subpoena or at least temporarily block its enforcement. The grand jury demanded the records of 60 patients from Tiller’s clinic, which the attorney general’s office had obtained as part of an earlier investigation.
Attorneys for Tiller, one of the few U.S. physicians who performs late-term abortions, already have asked the Supreme Court to block three other subpoenas that the doctor received from the grand jury. One of them seeks the records of about 2,000 patients from Tiller’s clinic.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that the subpoenas to Tiller couldn’t be enforced until the justices decide whether to quash them. The court said Tiller’s legal challenge raised “significant issues” about the grand jury’s authority and patients’ privacy.
Six said the records sought from his office are covered by the subpoenas the grand jury served on Tiller — and therefore are covered by the Supreme Court’s order. He also questioned whether the grand jury had the authority to issue the subpoenas and said patients’ privacy could be in jeopardy.
“We simply want to give the Kansas Supreme Court the opportunity to examine these issues,” said Six spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett. “Our subpoena deals with a subset of the medical records involved in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.”
Six disclosed last week that he had received two subpoenas from the grand jury. He complied with one, which sought testimony gathered previously from a doctor who worked with Tiller on some late-term abortions.
Dan Monnat, a Wichita attorney, said Six’s request to the Supreme Court is encouraging.
“Dr. Tiller’s foremost concern is always protection of his patients,” Monnat said in a statement. “Dr. Tiller is pleased to hear the voice of the top law enforcement officer in the state join in his call for protection of patient privacy.”
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said she is appalled. Her group had been wary of Six because of his appointment by Sebelius, an abortion rights supporter.
“They switched names, they switched faces, but it doesn’t appear as if anything else has changed,” she said. “All the signs had been pointing a certain way, but this is more than a sign. It’s a slap in the face to the people of Kansas.”
Six’s petition to the Supreme Court named as defendants District Judge Michael Corrigan, Sedgwick County’s chief judge, and retired Judge Paul Buchanan, who’s supervising the grand jury.
The attorney general said in documents filed with the court that the grand jury subpoena ordered him to turn over the patient records by Feb. 20. Six said he asked the judges to quash the subpoena, but they refused.
Six also asked the Supreme Court to consolidate the case he filed with Tiller’s legal challenge to the grand jury subpoenas he received.
Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-6514 or [email protected]. All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.