Kathleen Kane exits the courtroom where jurors were read the charges against her at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Kathleen Kane exits the courtroom where jurors were read the charges against her at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Inquirer Staff Photographer / Jessica Griffin/ Pool photo

Kathleen Kane’s Conviction 101: What it means and what happens now

Update: Kane announced at just after 1:30 p.m. today she is resigning from office, effective Wednesday. 

Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, is a convicted felon. She was found guilty by a Montgomery County jury last night on charges of perjury and obstruction.

Soon after, Governor Tom Wolf asked her to resign — for the second time. Prison could be in her future. 

But for now, she’s still Pennsylvania’s Attorney General. Here’s what Kane’s conviction means and what is likely to happen next:  

So what are the immediate effects of the conviction?

Kane will be sentenced within 90 days, but no date has been set. She also officially loses her law license, which actually won’t be much of a departure from what Pennsylvania has experienced in the last year. Last September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Kane’s law license.  

Does she have to quit?

Not yet. But soon. She can continue holding office until sentencing. At that point, she would be forced out.

Kane was steadfast that she would not resign leading up to this trial. But after her conviction Monday night her attorneys said they would discuss the possibility of resignation in the coming days.

Who takes over if she quits/gets impeached?

The first deputy attorney general, Kane’s No. 2, and that person is none other than Bruce Castor,  perhaps Pennsylvania’s most famous public attorney aside from Kane. Castor, the longtime Montgomery County district attorney, declined to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005.

He ran for his old job as Montco DA last fall, losing to Kevin Steele. If Castor had won, he would’ve been the attorney prosecuting Kane. Instead, he and Kane are basically biffles.

Wolf asked her to resign; can he force her out?

He can lead an impeachment process, but so far he has not, despite calling on her to resign after she was charged in 2015. According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the governor can remove a civil officer elected by the people, like Kane, if he or she gets two-thirds of the Senate to agree.

So the Senate and House have to be involved?

The typical impeachment process works this way: The House votes to bring articles of impeachment against a public official and then the action moves to the Senate, which holds a public trial. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to impeach.

This process has already begun. In February a House panel started looking into bringing articles of impeachment against Kane, but they’re taking their sweet time. The latest news from the panel came in late June, when it announced it would set up a subpoena process for public officials relating to Kane.  

One other thing: the Senate tried to impeach her already. Earlier this year, the Senate used a lesser-known strategy allowed by the state Constitution to holds its own impeachment hearing, even though the House had yet to bring forth articles of impeachment. The Senate voted 29-19 to impeach her, but it wasn’t enough. They needed two-thirds majority, 33 votes. All but one Republican voted to impeach her and all but one Democrat voted to not to impeach her.   

Now that she’s been convicted, the pressure to oust Kane has ratcheted up. The Senate’s top two Republicans, Joe Scarnati and Jake Corman, said they want Kane to resign and if she won’t they’ll try to go forward with the same impeachment process the Senate tried earlier this year.

Summer vacation ends for the Pennsylvania legislature on Thursday. It’s kind of perfect timing for them to make moves.

Has an Attorney General resigned or been impeached before?

Yes, because Pennsylvania.

Ernie Preate was Attorney General from 1989 to 1995. He resigned during his second term after being charged with fraud. He was later convicted and spent a year in federal prison. Like Kane, Preate is from the Scranton area.     

But the position of Attorney General has only been an elected office in Pennsylvania since 1980. We’ve only had 10 elected AG’s. And two of them are convicted criminals. Repeat: Two of only 10 people elected to be the top enforcer of Pennsylvania’s laws engaged in criminal activity while holding office.  

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