Ruling holds US attorney's office in Kansas in contempt

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -

A judge has found prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, Kansas, improperly listened to recorded communications between inmates and their defense attorneys in a ruling that could upend hundreds of federal convictions and sentences.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in a ruling handed down late Tuesday set up what she called a roadmap for reviewing federal cases for potential violations of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Robinson also found the office in contempt of court for violating her orders to preserve evidence and turn over documents to the court-appointed special master investigating the practice.

Robinson said she would impose monetary sanctions against the government as punishment.

(MORE: 67 inmates seek Kansas prison release over secret recordings)

The ruling also cited internal dysfunction in the U.S. attorney's office, saying prosecutors distrusted current and past management "to the point of insubordination."