Gavel Grab

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

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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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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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Panel Recommends Three Finalists for Kansas High Court

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission, having completed interviews in public of 13 applicants, recommended three finalists for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The recommended candidates included Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, who had previously served as counsel to Brownback and whose nomination to the appeals court last year proved controversial; Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler, according to the Associated Press. Read more

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Timeliness of Kansas High Court Questioned by Some Applicants

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005The Supreme Court Nominating Commission began interviewing applicants for a high court vacancy in public on Monday, at a time the court continued to draw attention over its recent voiding of death sentences given two brothers.

A Topeka Capital-Journal article said some of the applicants, including Court of Appeals Chief Judge Thomas Malone, voiced criticism of the state Supreme Court over the time it took to decide the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr (see Gavel Grab). The case had been pending before the Supreme Court for 10 years, the article said.

It was the first time the interviews of high court applicants were held in public. The screening commission will recommend finalists to Gov. Sam Brownback, who will make his first appointment to the court. Read more

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Another Push Ahead to Change Kansas Court Selection Method?

KS-Supreme-Court-logo200Legislators interested in changing the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected seized on a court ruling that overturned death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing (see Gavel Grab).

The ruling “will likely fuel another push by conservative Republicans to give the governor and legislators more say in how the justices are chosen,” the Associated Press reported.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Republican, said that when legislators return to work in January, judicial selection will “absolutely” be a topic given the court rulings last week. He said the rulings were not surprising.

“There will always be cries for the heads of judges when they make difficult and unpopular rulings,” said Rep. John Carmichael, a Democrat.  ”It’s an imperative that we have independent courts.” Read more

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Kansas Governor ‘Stunned’ by Court’s Voiding Death Sentences

KansasKansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was “stunned” by a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-1 ruling, also invalidated three out of four capital murder convictions against the brothers, Jonathan and Reginald Carr, according to the Associated Press. The court pointed two procedural problems during the joint trial of the brothers.

“They were convicted by a jury of their peers in front of an elected local judge,” Brownback said. “Today’s ruling unnecessarily reopens wounds of a tragic moment in Wichita’s history.” Read more

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Commentary: Avoid Further Secrecy on Judicial Applicants’ Names

It’s good for the public to have the names of applicants for the Kansas Supreme Court, a Wichita Eagle editorial page blog says. The writer, Rhonda Holman, says this transparency would be endangered if legislators change the state constitution to dump the current merit selection process for picking justices.

For a new vacancy on the high court, 14 people have applied for consideration by a judicial nominating commission, and they include four members of the state Court of Appeals. Holman notes that this kind of transparency was not in effect when Gov. Sam Brownback appointed a new judge to the Court of Appeals last year; the legislature had changed, by passing a new law, the process for selection of Court of Appeals judges (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Fourteen Seek Nomination to Kansas Supreme Court

KansasFourteen people have applied for nomination by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. On Aug. 4 and 5, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission expects to interview the applicants and then recommend three finalists to the governor.

One of the applicants is Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, a former chief counsel to the governor whom Brownback named a judge last year under a new process adopted by the legislature for that court. It  dumped any role for a nominating commission, according to the Associated Press, and added a requirement for state Senate confirmation. Read more

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Editorial: New Kansas Law is ‘Payback’ Against High Court

stock-footage-kansas-flag-loopWhen Kansas legislators recently weakened the administrative authority of the state Supreme Court over all state courts, they were retaliating against the high court over its controversial decisions about public school funding and other matters, a Wichita Eagle editorial says.

What’s more, the legislation — signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback — was an action taken in anger, “of questionable constitutionality doubling as payback and a brushback pitch,” the editorial contends.

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