Topeka A northeast Kansas county prosecutor who's previously represented missionaries detained in Haiti and former Attorney General Phill Kline will be Gov.-elect Sam Brownback's top staff lawyer.
Jefferson County Attorney Caleb Stegall will become the general counsel for the governor's office when Brownback is sworn in Jan. 10. He referred questions Tuesday to Brownback's transition team, after the governor-elect issued a statement saying he's pleased that Stegall agreed to join the administration.
"Caleb will bring strong legal experience to the governor's office," Brownback said.
It's the second time in less than a week that someone with a tie to Kline, a Republican who became a national figure for investigating abortion providers, has been named to an important job in state government. Last week, Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach announced that he'd picked Kline's former top deputy as assistant secretary of state.
But Stegall, a Republican like Brownback, also received national attention earlier this year for representing four Baptist missionaries detained in Haiti after being charged with child trafficking for trying to take 33 children out of that nation. His clients included a youth pastor from Topeka.
Most of the missionaries, including Stegall's clients, were jailed for three weeks in Haiti but released, returning to the U.S. without facing the charges. They said they were told the children were orphans whom they'd planned to take them to the Dominican Republic to care for them at a hotel there. The Associated Press determined that the children still had parents, however.
Stegall represented Kline in a legal dispute with a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, over Kline's attempts to pursue criminal charges that the clinic performed illegal abortions and falsified reports about some procedures to the state, which it denies. Stegall also initially represented Kline in professional disciplinary proceedings stemming from his investigations of abortion providers.
Kline, a Republican, was attorney general in 2003-07, and, after he lost his bid for re-election, Johnson County district attorney in 2007-08. He filed the criminal case against Planned Parenthood's clinic as district attorney, and it's still pending, though legal disputes kept it from moving forward. A disciplinary hearing for Kline is scheduled for February on allegations that he made false statements and allowed subordinates to mislead other state officials during investigations of abortion providers. Kline strongly disputes the accusations, calling them politically motivated.
Stegall also represented Eric Rucker, who served as Kline's top deputy both in the attorney general and Johnson County district attorney's office, when Rucker faced a disciplinary complaint.
In August, a state panel informally admonished Rucker for not correcting information provided to the Kansas Supreme Court about Kline's abortion investigations. But he'd initially been accused of more serious misconduct, and Stegall described the outcome as a vindication of Rucker. Kobach said Rucker had been "completely exonerated" as he appointed him his top assistant.
In 2008, Stegall also represented four Wyandotte County residents in an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to block construction of a state-owned casino at Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR track in Kansas City, Kan.
Stegall, 39, is a Lawrence native who now lives in Perry, about 10 miles to the northwest. He received his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1999 and was elected Jefferson County attorney in 2008. Republicans in the county will name a replacement for him once he joins Brownback's administration.