By Pat Loeb

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Montgomery County judge has ordered a hearing later this month for Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane, to investigate whether the firing of one of her chief deputies was in retaliation for his testimony to a grand jury.

Judge William Carpenter has been presiding over a grand jury investigating whether Kane leaked materials from a previous grand jury.  Leaks from Carpenter’s grand jury suggest that it recommended charges against Kane.

Now, Carpenter wants to investigate whether Kane’s firing this week of her aide, James Barker, violated the judge’s order protecting witnesses from retaliation.

He has called a hearing for April 27th, before a three-judge panel, and ordered both Kane and special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio to appear and address the issue.

Kane’s office has already said, in a statement, that Barker’s firing had nothing to do with his testimony but was part of a broader restructuring of the attorney general’s office.

Today, Kane attorney Lanny Davis issued a statement saying, in part,  “I can reassure Judge Carpenter that the personnel decisions over the last two years, including the most recent ones, were 100% appropriate management decisions by Attorney General Kane consistent with her campaign themes and commitments to the people of Pennsylvania for reform and efficiency in the Office of Attorney General.  … She also categorically denies that these personnel decisions were in any way retaliatory – they were made on the merits for the reasons just stated.”

In a previous statement, Kane said she fired Barker because he should be held accountable for grand jury leaks.  That would presumably include leaks about Barker’s testimony to the grand jury, reported to be unfavorable to Kane.