Gavel Grab

Two Kansas Justices Face Anti-Retention Effort Over Ruling

Justice Rosen

Justice Rosen

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider throwing out a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing (see Gavel Grab).

Petitions to reinstate death penalties for Jonathan and Reginald Carr were filed with the nation’s highest court this week, according to the Wichita Eagle. The state Supreme Court’s voiding three of each man’s four capital murder convictions generated controversy, and now, some of the victims’ kin have created an organization devoted to defeating in November two of the justices who participated in the ruling. The group is called Kansans for Justice.

Justice Johnson

Justice Johnson

Only Justices Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen, of the court’s seven members, are on the retention (up-or-down) ballot, according to a different Wichita Eagle article. 

Mark Befort, brother of one of the victims, told the newspaper of the devastating pain his family suffered in both the crime spree and through re-living it when the defendants were tried in court. He said the state’s highest court “has voted to either eliminate these verdicts or force all of the family members and surviving victims to have to once again re-live those crimes in court, or see these guilty verdicts erased. Read more

No comments

Kansas Court: Democrats Not Required to Field Senate Hopeful

A three-judge Shawnee County District Court panel has ruled that Kansas Democrats are not required to field a U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot in November, replacing a candidate who withdrew.

Because a strong independent candidate, Greg Orman, is running against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and there is a fierce battle over control of the Senate, the legal issues surrounding the Kansas ballot have drawn national attention. Read more

No comments

Her Husband Hosted Political Fundraiser, and KS Judge is Criticized

The Kansas Republican Party found fuel for criticizing the state Supreme Court in a political fundraiser held for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis at the home of Justice Carol Beier. Her husband, Richard Green, arranged the event, and Justice Beier did not attend.

The fundraising event raises “numerous ethical questions for both Davis and the Kansas judicial branch,” Republicans said in a prepared statement, according to the Wichita Eagle.

“It’s my husband’s event, and I have taken care not to be there,” Justice Beier told the newspaper. The Davis campaign said she had no role in arranging the event. Read more

No comments

In KS Governor’s Race, Opposing Views on Judicial Selection

Kansas-Flag-2As Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis square off in the Kansas race for governor, an important issue that divides them is the best way of choosing state Supreme Court justices.

A KCUR report provides an in-depth look at the issue. Brownback has supported efforts to scrap a judicial nominating commission that vets candidates for the high court, while Davis has resisted such efforts. And Brownback recently named his former counsel, Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, to the high court, in an action that was questioned by some advocates.

A vetting commission had failed to include Stegall’s name among candidates who applied in 2012 for a seat on the Court of Appeals, but after the legislature eliminated the vetting commission, he was named to that court by Brownback. “The entire process was essentially changed just to get Justice Stegall through the system,” said Ryan Wright of Kansans for Fair Courts. This year, Read more

No comments

Senate Ballot Dispute to Come Before Kansas High Court

0In a politically charged and nationally watched dispute, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in an effort to decide whether Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Chad Taylor may remove his name from the November ballot.

Taylor’s recent attempted withdrawal from the race with Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman has widely been viewed as changing the dynamics of the contest, and possibly in favor of Orman. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, however, has contended that Taylor did not meet the legal requirements for withdrawal in the letter he submitted, because he did not declare he would be incapable of serving if voters elected him. Read more

No comments

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

No comments

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

No comments

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

No comments

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

No comments

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.

No comments

Next Page »