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Judicial Selection System That Elevated Stegall ‘Worked’ — or Did It?

Kansas-Flag-2Editorial opinion in Kansas reacting to Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointment of his former counsel, Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, to the state Supreme Court continues to diverge (see Gavel Grab).

A Wichita Eagle editorial was headlined, “Judicial selection system worked.” Judge Stegall was tapped for the high court after a judicial nominating commission screened applicants and recommended three finalists to the governor. The editorial also noted Brownback’s earlier criticism of this merit-based selection system and urged him to back off:

“[I]n the wake of Stegall’s selection Brownback should at least call off the legislative dogs who’d like to further underfund and undermine the high court and to abolish the nominating commission entirely.” Read more

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Columnist: ‘Quit Whining’ Over Brownback Judicial Pick

Critics unhappy with Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointment of his former counsel, Judge Caleb Stegall, to the Kansas Supreme Court have a right to complain, but they need to understand that “[E]lections have consequences,” columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah writes in a Kansas City Star essay.

People who don’t like Brownback’s judicial appointments have the right to unseat the governor, Abouhalkah notes. When Court of Appeals Judge Stegall was chosen by Brownback for the state’s highest court, one of the most outspoken critics of the appointment was House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who is running against Brownback this fall. Read more

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Appointment to Kansas Court of Former Aide Sparks Criticism

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick of former chief counsel Caleb Stegall for a state Supreme Court opening (see Gavel Grab) met with criticism in some quarters. Judge Stegall has served on the Kansas Court of Appeals since January.

“By skipping over two highly qualified nominees and selecting someone with so little experience, Governor Brownback has once again shown that rewarding a political ally is far more important than doing what’s best for the people of Kansas,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

“Once again, Sam Brownback put his own political agenda before the best interests of Kansans,” said House Minority Leader  Paul Davis. “Instead of choosing a judge with more than 20 years on the bench, he chose his  Read more

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Brownback Names Former Counsel to Kansas Supreme Court

Judge Stegall

Judge Stegall

Gov. Sam Brownback made his first appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday, choosing Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, who had served as Brownback’s chief counsel before becoming a judge in January.

Brownback made his selection in choosing among three finalists recommended by a nominating commission. He previously had said that Judge Stegall had no inside track for the job. Judge Stegall’s elevation also means the governor will have a vacancy to fill on the Court of Appeals.

The other two finalists were Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger, who sat on that court since 2011, and Judge Merlin Wheeler, chief judge of the 5th Judicial District of Lyon and Chase counties, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.  Read more

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Commission Advances Court Nomination of Stanford Law Professor



Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Mexican immigrant to the United States, to the California Supreme Court was confirmed unanimously on Thursday by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments. The nomination next will appear before voters on the ballot in November.

Cuéllar received a rating of exceptionally well qualified from a state bar evaluating commission, according to a Los Angeles Times article. When the nomination first was announced, it sparked attention for the statement it made about diversity on the bench (see Gavel Grab).

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Essay: Republicans Still Obstructing Judicial Nominees

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightAlthough the Senate has stepped up its pace for confirming judges (see Gavel Grab), judicial nominees of President Obama’s still have to wait longer for confirmation than was the case under Obama’s three predecessors.

Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View of this phenomenon, relying on information from a Twitter-based data collector.

Bernstein faults Senate Republicans for obstructionism and says that since Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year, Republicans “have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.” He also expresses a worry that if Republicans capture the Senate in November, “they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years.”

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Are Confirmed Judges ‘The Legacy of This Congress’?

Unlike last year, a polarized and barely-legislating U.S. Senate has recently made a big mark with its confirmation of dozens of judicial nominees, according to a Politico article. The shift comes after a major change to Senate filibuster rules.

Senate Democrats exercised what has been called the “nuclear option” last year, eliminating the filibuster of all Cabinet nominees and all judicial nominees except those for the Supreme Court. Politico reported, “Over a roughly equivalent period during the 113th Congress, the Senate confirmed 36 district and circuit court judges before the rules change and 68 after.”

President Obama is getting closer to matching the judicial confirmation records of presidents who preceded him, while making an imprint on the courts. “The legacy of this Congress has been the impact that the president and the Senate have made with judicial vacancies,” said Marge Baker, a vice president of People for the American Way. Read more

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Governor Elevates Judge to North Carolina Supreme Court

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed Judge R.N. “Bob” Hunter of the state Court of Appeals to the state Supreme Court. Judge Hunter also is seeking election to a full term on the high court in a race with Judge Sam Ervin IV.

Judge Hunter told WECT that he hopes the appointment, which takes effect Sept. 6, will give him an advantage. “I hope it’s an advantage. I hope it’s not a disadvantage,” he said. “But I don’t really look at that so much as I look at doing the work and trying to make sure everybody understands that I’m going to be straight down the middle and fair to everybody.”

Judge Hunter will fill the remainder of Justice Mark Martin’s term. Earlier this week McCrory named Justice Martin as Chief Justice, to succeed Chief Justice Sarah Parker when she retires Aug. 31, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Hunter is a Republican, the (Raleigh) News & Observer noted. Judge Ervin is a Democrat. Gov. McCrory is a Republican. Soon five of the high court’s seven seats will be held by Republicans, the newspaper said. The Supreme Court election is non-partisan.


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Kansas Governor: No Inside Track to Court for His Ex-Aide

There will be no personal favorites when he chooses his first nominee to the Kansas Supreme Court, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said.

One of three finalists recommended by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission is Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall (see Gavel Grab), who had served as chief counsel to Brownback before the governor appointed him to the Superior Court last year.

The qualities that he will look for, Brownback said, are “Competency. Judicial temperament. Good, solid intellect. Experience. And somebody who would make a good long-term judge.” He made the remarks to reporters, according to the Wichita Eagle.

State Rep. Jim Ward, an attorney and a Democrat, told the newspaper he believed Judge Stegall will be Brownback’s pick for the state’s highest court, and the appointment would in turn give Brownback another appointment to the state Court of Appeals.

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President Obama Prepares for Possible Supreme Court Vacancy

President Barack Obama spoke to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and expressed his goal of holding a democratic majority in the Senate in order to fill potential vacancies in the Supreme Court, Time reported.

“…I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments, and there are going to be a whole host of issues that many people here care about that are going to be determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate,” he said.

According to the piece, it was the first time President Obama suggested a Supreme Court vacancy in his final years of office.

“The President’s comments were meant to convey the important role the Senate would play in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy,” a White House spokesperson said. “They were not in reference to a specific vacancy.”

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