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Jefferson County attorney candidate Caleb Stegall chats about primary election

July 29, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Caleb Stegall, Perry attorney, is running for Jefferson County attorney, a position currently held by Mike Hayes.

Moderator:

Hi, this is reporter Mike Belt. I will be the moderator for our chat this afternoon with Caleb Stegall, a Perry attorney who is running for Jefferson County attorney. Welcome, Caleb.

Caleb Stegall:

Thanks Mike, it's good to be here.

Moderator:

Let's get right to our first question:

gdiepenb:

If elected, what area would you try to strengthen in the office?

Caleb Stegall:

Thanks for the question. There are a number of areas needing strengthening in the Jefferson County Attorney's office. First, it is vital to the office to increase the level of law enforcement and number of prosecutions in Jefferson County. Currently Jefferson County ranks 102nd out of 105 Kansas counties in per-capita felony dispositions. We need to bring those rates back up. In addition, the level of trust between our County Attorney's office and our local law enforcement agencies has really suffered in recent years. One of my top priorities will be to restore those cooperative relationships with law enforcement.

Grump:

You have represented Phill Kline in the abortion records lawsuit. Do you consider Phill Kline as a role model for a prosecutor?

Should Roe v. Wade be overturned? Should Griswold v Connecticut (which provides a right to contraception) be overturned? Will you use the office of Jefferson County Attorney to pursue overturning either Roe or Griswold?

Will you continue to represent Phill Kline if you are elected Jefferson County Attorney?

Caleb Stegall:

Grump, yes, I have represented District Attorney Kline during the civil proceedings before the Kansas Supreme Court. Because the case is ongoing, it would not be proper for me to discuss the details of the case or offer opinions regarding my client. I will say that it is gratifying, professionally, to be recognized by many across the state and in the region as an attorney with the ability to handle some of our most high-profile and contentious legal matters.

With regard to the question of abortion, I am pro-life and politically a federalist. On legal grounds, I believe Roe v Wade to be a weak decision and believe that the matter is best left to state control.

No, I do not believe the office of county attorney has any real ability to overturn any United States Supreme Court opinion.

Moderator:

Caleb, what kinds of cases do you normally handle as private attorney? Won't becoming a prosecutor be a big change, if you are elected? Do you see it being difficult to make a switch?

Caleb Stegall:

Thanks for the good questions Mike. In my private law practice I handle a wide variety of matters. I left a large law firm in Topeka to open a small-town practice with the goal of being a general practitioner. I handle quite a bit of the legal work for a number of our small businesses in Jefferson County along with all kinds of disputes and other matters for various folks who need representation. I also do a good bit of work for various political advocacy groups and grass roots movements at the State House in Topeka. For example, I am general counsel for Americans for Prosperity, a group advocating tax reform and government transparency, and I also serve on the executive committee for Audubon of Kansas, our state's largest grass-roots conservation group. Finally, I have developed a niche of sorts in the area of political trials and political and campaign related disputes.

glcookie06:

No question. I am just glad to see him run against MIke Hayes. Mike has a real attitude. If he likes you he will do anything to keep you from getting the harshest punishment and vise versa. He is very arogant, and needs to retire form his position. I have been told so many times that everyone is replaceable. And that means for MIke. We need a new face in the system..that will see both sides and not just one. Good luck Caleb! Waiting to see you in the court room as CA

Caleb Stegall:

I appreciate the kind words and well wishing. I do believe that for the health of our democracy, especially in rural America, it is vital that people remain engaged in the political process, and this means having choices. That is one of the reasons I decided to run.

Moderator:

Mike Hayes has a standing policy of not talking to the media. We are told that every time one of our reporters calls his office with questions. That policy has extended to his run for re-election. We understand there are certain things a prosecutor can't talk about concerning cases, but what would your policy be? How open would you be not just to the media but to the public in general?

Caleb Stegall:

Mike, you're right, prosecutors are governed by certain ethical rules which restrict how much they can speak to the media. However, those rules have never been intended to cut off prosecutorial matters entirely from public scrutiny. I have a firm commitment to transparency and openness at all levels of government, and thus my policy with regard to the media would reflect a desire to allow as much public access to the working of public officials as is prudent given the circumstances and allowable under the various rules that apply.

I would also add, somewhat in answer to your earlier question which I did not fully address, that lawyers handle a very wide variety of matters. So in some ways, being a prosecutor would be a change for me. However, the common factor in every legal matter is solving a client's problems and maintaining a relationship of trust. I have said repeatedly that the County Attorney's office is the people's law firm. It ought to have an open door policy and really listen to its clients, the citizens of the county. That is an area I intend to improve upon over current practice.

Moderator:

That is all the time we have for this chat. Thanks to those of you who have submitted questions, and Caleb, thanks for joining us. Do you have an e-mail address where people can send you additional questions?

Caleb Stegall:

Thanks Mike and the JW for inviting me. I enjoyed chatting with you and your readers. I would be happy to answer any questions at my campaign e-mail address: stegallforcountyattorney@gmail.com.

Thanks again!

Comments

Grump 5 years, 8 months ago

I could not vote for a Phill Kline supporter.

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concernedJFCOcitizen 5 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Stegall says "...the County Attorney's office is the people's law firm. It ought to have an open door policy and really listen to its clients, the citizens of the county." The County Attorney (CA) is a "prosecutor" of crimes committed under Kansas Law. Not to be confused with the County Counselors that represent Jefferson County and its legal issues OR a private law firm that has a 1 hour free consultation. Kansas Laws are made by the Kansas Legislature - not Mike Hayes. If an alleged crime is committed, for it to be charged, the Sheriff's Report MUST contain the elements of the crime as written in the charging Statute(s) & then prosecuted by the CA. These elements are contained in all Jury Instructions. If the elements are not there & the case is charged & goes to trial; most likely, a Not Guilty will be the result - INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty. Remember, the Burden of PROOF is on the State. If Mr. Stegall is elected CA, he will prosecute CRIMINAL cases & to my knowledge, he has not even defended a criminal, & from the information provided, has only dealt in Civil Law. Civil and Criminal Law are quite different. Civil Law IS all about making "your client" happy, ethically upholding the attorney-client privilege, AND getting paid for it. The County Attorney's Office reviews, charges and prosecutes cases from traffic infractions up to Level 1 Felonies, such as murder or rape. Rarely is anybody happy. As Prosecutor, Mr. Stegall's "open door policy" can only go so far. ALL information in a Prosecutor's Office is confidential; therefore, cannot be discussed or shared with the public. The Prosecutor cannot talk to a Defendant unless that Defendant has appeared in court & waived his right to an attorney. If a Defendant or victim has an attorney, all contact is required to be between the attorneys, not the individual. Unfortunately, TV shows like Boston Legal, CSI, Law & Order, etc. give people the impression that crimes are solved in an hour. It takes time for Law Enforcement to investigate crimes, get lab results, locate and interview witnesses, IF they will cooperate. Not to mention, as of July 1, 2005, the Kansas Legislators increased the Statute of Limitations from 3 years to 5 years occurring after that date, which means, the prosucutor has 5 years to file a criminal action on a report from Law Enforcement. Mr. Stegall has pointed out Mr. Hayes' prosecuting record or his alleged lack thereof. What is Mr. Stegall's record for ANY criminal case? How many criminals has he prosecuted OR defended? Is Mr. Stegall actually blaming the rising "rate of violent and property crimes in Jefferson County" on Mr. Hayes? Perhaps the rise in crime & lack of of cases is because there are no suspects, because investigations take time, because Jefferson County is growing! There are many unanswered questions - the big one: Can Jefferson County afford a prosecutor with NO CRIMINAL EXPERIENCE?

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clyde_never_barks 5 years, 8 months ago

Represents Phill Kline AND American's For Prosperity...that's all he needs to say. Glad I don't live in Jefferson County. I'd have to write in Mickey Mouse.

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2clueless 5 years, 8 months ago

I find it interesting that I sent a question regarding actual crimanal cases that Mr Stegall has handled and got no response. Is that because the chat wasn't about the questions people really need answers too so they can make an informed decision? See Mike Hayes' interview with the Oskaloosa Independant reporter.

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