Archive for Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brownback appoints his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the Kansas Court of Appeals

August 20, 2013


Gov. Sam Brownback announced his nomination of attorney Caleb Stegall to fill the 14th seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals on Aug. 20, 2013.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced his nomination of attorney Caleb Stegall to fill the 14th seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals on Aug. 20, 2013.

Related document

Caleb Stegall nomination packet ( .PDF )

— Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday appointed his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the Kansas Court of Appeals, a year after Stegall was passed over twice for other appeals court slots by a judicial nominating commission.

Brownback said Stegall, if confirmed by the Senate, “will be one of the most, if not the most qualified person to go on the Kansas Court of Appeals over the past several decades.”

Stegall, 41, a Lawrence native who now lives in southeast Jefferson County, has been chief counsel to Brownback since January 2011, was Jefferson County Attorney for two years and founded and owned a law firm. He has been in the middle of several high-profile political cases, including at one point representing former Attorney General Phill Kline.

Democrats, who had objected to changing the judicial selection process and had warned about the consequences of a less-public process, decried the appointment as cronyism.

“The Kansas judiciary should be a pillar of independence and transparency, not a parking lot for Governor Brownback’s well-connected, partisan pals,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, who is considering a run against Brownback in 2014.

Brownback’s nomination of Stegall is the first under a new law that gives him the authority to make a selection subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Stegall was passed over twice last year for positions on the appeals court under the former law in which a nominating commission screened applicants and forwarded a list of three potential

nominees to the governor.

In the recently concluded legislative session, Brownback and his conservative allies passed the new law.

In addition to the partisan rancor from that fight, the selection process became more controversial when Brownback refused to divulge the names of those applying for the vacancy on the state’s second highest court. In the past, the nominating commission released the names of those applying, its final recommendation, and had even opened up to the public its interview process.

At the news conference, Brownback refused to allow Stegall to answer questions from the media, also a departure from past practice.

Stegall did, however, make some comments after Brownback’s announcement.

“I want to note and give a special thanks to many of my colleagues,” he said. “Many of them are Democrats and these colleagues are those who may have had and do have good faith disagreements on the matter of how we select our judiciary in Kansas. Nonetheless, they have endorsed my nomination to this position because they know my record.”

He mentioned former attorney general Steve Six and several other Democrats who wrote in his favor.

Among the letters of recommendation for Stegall was one from Lawrence City Manager David Corliss, who praised Stegall for his work representing Family Promises, a non-profit that helps the homeless. Stegall helped the city “improve its regulations on homeless shelters to reflect certain public concerns,” Corliss said.

Stegall has wide

range of experience

Stegall’s legal experience has featured a wide range of cases. Stegall prosecuted a murder case and other major crimes as the lead prosecutor in Jefferson County from 2009 to 2011. Stegall received his law degree from Kansas University in 1999. He is married and has five children.

In 2010, he helped defend a group of Topeka missionaries in Haiti who had been charged with kidnapping and child trafficking during the aftermath of the earthquake there. Working for no pay, he helped get the charges dismissed.

Stegall represented Kline in a legal dispute with a Planned Parenthood clinic in 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 denied. Stegall also initially represented Kline in professional disciplinary proceedings stemming from his investigations of abortion providers.

Critical of school

finance ruling

In 2009, Stegall, writing a lengthy analysis for the Kansas Policy Institute, was highly critical of the 2005 Kansas Supreme Court decision that led to increased funding for schools.

He said the ruling was a cause of the state’s budget crises then and “a symptom of the deeper pattern of reckless spending and disregard for fundamental principles of republican forms of self-government that has taken hold of both Kansas lawmakers and judges in the past decade.”

Asked how Stegall could ensure that he would be impartial in issues, such as school finance, Brownback said Stegall will take his oath seriously “to impartially determine the law.”

Next up: confirmation hearings

Stegall will now appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, state Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, has enlisted the assistance of three prominent legal scholars — Deanell Tacha, Stephen McAllister and Reggie Robinson — to draft a six-page questionnaire for the nominee.

Tacha is former chief judge of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and now dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. McAllister, the state’s solicitor general, is a professor and former dean at the Kansas University law school. Robinson is a former president of the Kansas Board of Regents and director of the Center for Law and Government at the Washburn University law school in Topeka.

Two of the three — Tacha and McAllister — wrote letters of recommendation on behalf of Stegall’s nomination to the bench.

Stegall’s confirmation will be up before the Senate during the special legislative session that starts Sept. 3.

Brownback called the special session to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision that raised questions about a Kansas law that allows some convicted murderers to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years.

Some Democrats have said the upcoming special session will give legislators little time to examine Stegall’s record.


msezdsit 8 months ago

This an open and shut case. The Kansas government is a private club. Members only


jafs 8 months ago

The school funding issue is simple: The legislature has the constitutional obligation in KS to fund education at a "suitable" level. They did several studies to determine that level, and then failed to provide that level of funding.

The KS SC exists in order to ensure compliance with the state constitution, and ruled that the state was not living up to it's constitutional obligations.

The state ignored them, and continued to underfund the system.

Anybody who is against the state complying with the ruling misunderstands our constitutional system and the role of the SC in KS, in my opinion.


leaningleftist 8 months ago

I just lost my entire response when I tried to copy the link for David Koch and ALEC so I'll respond to your comment from the bottom up with less detail. They are in charge, David and Charles Koch are the largest donors for Americans for prosperity and ALEC Manyof Kansas legislature just attended an ALEC conference in Chicago. What is happening in kansas is happening all over the country as far as defending public education among other things. The kochs are some of the biggest polluters in the US, and alot of the departments and policies they want changed directly benefit them, ie EPA being dissolved. I concede that abortion isn't a right from the constitution but federal law does trump state law and abortions are essentially next to near to have in kansas even in cases of rape and incest. It was upheld in roe v wade that women have that right and it is being denied on a state level here and in other states. May pro lifers believe that is a moral sin to have one thus the separation of church and state isn't being recognized. And finally education, anytime you privatize that there is no need for core standards, ex I don't think religion is right to have being taught in lue of science,. You shouldn't have the bible replacing evolution and private donors get to influence the ciriculum and religion will be taught instead of evolution. It will be up to private donors to finance the school and if they aren't pleased then there go the funds. Teachers should be free to teach curriculum the way they see fit and not being worried about fired if they do toe the line of private donors. And this is happening already in college campuses. I have no problem with religion being taught in school as long as long as all religions are being taught and not making a part of science class.


William Weissbeck 8 months ago

I'm sure at age 41, he has the legal experience and possibly the knowledge. But there was a time when we valued age, because with age came wisdom. Both at the state and federal level it is a race to nominate and appoint the youngest attorneys in your camp to lifetime judgeships. The trick is what you can get away with in order to "stack the courts" for a generation plus. And why is it that the nominees are those who have already taken stands on the "hot bottom" legal issues of the day. Phil Kline, Planned Parenthood and school funding all in one nominee - how convenient.


jumpin_catfish 8 months ago

Thankfully, we have Obama to protect us from that mean old Brownback. Right?


Slowponder 8 months ago

The saving graces at the Court of Appeals are it takes two votes for a majority opinion and the Court of Appeals will not decide school funding.

If the governor thinks Steagall will be the most qualified, he has not been paying attention recent appointees.


Rational_Kansan 8 months ago

Given Stegall's background, work experience and obvious partisanship, no one can realistically expect him to be nonpartisan. It is clear he will push his (and the very far-right's) agenda, which is not good for Kansas. He owes a lot of favors.


anticommunist 8 months, 1 week ago

I eagerly anticipate Governor Brownback's re-election, if only to read the rabid liberal's responses to Rothschild's pieces.


volunteer 8 months, 1 week ago

Ask the folks in Jefferson County what they think of him. Seems like when he was county attorney there, he was constantly whining to the county commissioners about how his budget was woefully inadequate for that hotbed of crime...Jefferson County.


overthemoon 8 months, 1 week ago

Ok folks. Check out what's happening in North Carolina. The people there are rising up and saying NO WAY to the incredible attacks on personal and civic freedoms that are being passed like shotgun blasts at the State and Local levels. Thousands protesting. Can we get more than a crowd of a hundred or two to march on Topeka and say enough is enough??

Regrettably, I think that we may not be able to. There's a lot still wrong with Kansas.

If you'd like to voice your opinion:


mikekt 8 months, 1 week ago

One of these days the earth below Topeka is going to open up and swallow Sam Brownback whole, which time Satan is going to have to find another line of work, as Sam will no doubt replace him, at the helm, of that state of existence .

Where else ?....... would people fall for that "I am a Christian stuff", that he's selling, as he has done his best to create hell on earth in Kansas, for those less than rich of our state !

Sam is just practicing till his next big opportunity comes along .


Rick Hird 8 months, 1 week ago

I hope Corliss wrote his letter of support on a personal basis and not on City of Lawrence letterhead. If not, he should be called on the carpet.


Rick Hird 8 months, 1 week ago

Saticon, you as a public school teacher should be throwing up right now. Stegall comes into his judicial office with a publicly declared predisposition on school funding. The right wing has an agenda to dismantle public education, which will lead to a caste system. Whether you believe that or not, Stegall is simply not impartial. For Brownback to get the legislature to change the law so he could appoint his henchman is repulsive. Shame on him and shame on all Kansans who support such political gamesmanship. Welcome to Brownbackistan.


John Yocum 8 months, 1 week ago

I look forward to seeing what Mr. Stegall can add to the Kansas mix. I've known him for over 15 years, and I have seen in him a good father, loving husband, a caring friend, and a leader. I hate when folks take their attitudes towards a particular person, such as Mr. B., and automatically dump it on another by association, such as Mr. Stegall. I am a Republican, but lean toward the middle and am not thrilled with Mr. B. at all. While I am a public school teacher and am very frustrated with having almost no budget for my classroom this year (talking under $100, folks, if any), I do not hold that against Mr. Stegall. I'm sure what he will do will be based on much research and multiple views. Give him a chance!


Terry Lee 8 months, 1 week ago

What a dead-behind-the-eyes cattle trudge his administration has become. "If you would kill for Jesus come join my team and help kidnap small kids from Haiti" Pathetic!


LawrenceBuddy 8 months, 1 week ago

2nd Post:

Alan Streit, Chairman of the Kansas Bar Association Bench-Bar Committee:

“In my law practice and as chair of the KBA Bench-Bar Committee, I am in frequent communication with the leaders of the Kansas bar, including Judges of all levels throughout the State of Kansas. This experience has provided me the perspective to recognize that Mr. Stegall possesses the intellect, character, and judgment not found in many other lawyers in our profession. . . “As Chair of the KBA Bench-Bar Committee, I believe that Mr. Stegall is the ideal candidate to fill the role as Judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Governor would serve the citizens of the State of Kansas and the members of the Kansas bar well in appointing Mr. Stegall as Judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals.”


LawrenceBuddy 8 months, 1 week ago

Judge Deanell Tacha, Former Chief Judge of the 10th Cir. Court of Appeals: “Mr. Stegall was my law clerk from August 2000-August 2001. He was outstanding in all respects. His remarkable intellectual ability combines with a very fine-tuned sense of the practical effects of the legal issues involved. He analyzes issues with precision and rigor. He was especially adept at writing with clarity and insightful understanding of the issues presented. Caleb Stegall is a very hard worker whose power of intellect and legal facility model the attributes that are so important to all judges.”


Thomas Bryce 8 months, 1 week ago

Mr. Stegall, if you find in favor of The Legislature on subjects that have been previously ruled unconstitutional, You invite legal review and Scrutiny from other judges. If you don't find in favor of The Legislature, they may very well label you an "Activist judge" and do their best to remove you. "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't." Good luck in your new Position, sir.


ElwoodTSuggins 8 months, 1 week ago

No matter which side of the issue you are on, understand why Kansas adopted the system of appointments to the Supreme Court in the late 1950's. Kansans were deeply offended by a suddenly resigning Governor Fred Hall getting himself appointed to the Supreme Court by his formerly lieutenant and now suddenly Governor McCuish. The sitting Chief Justice didn't want Governor elect Docking to appoint a Democrat to the court. So Smith resigned as Chief, Hall resigned as Governor, McCusih succeeded Hall and promptly appointed Hall to the Supreme Court. It was called the "Triple Play." The thought behind the constitutional amendment to appoint Kansas Supreme Court justices - whether you agree with it or not - was to reduce political influence in the selection process by having both lawyers and non-lawyers vetting applicants to reduce the pool to three for the governor's selection. See the wikipedia link.


jafs 8 months, 1 week ago

"Brownback refused to allow Stegall to take questions from the media".

How exactly does this square with promises to make the process "more transparent", and why wouldn't he let him take questions?


James Nelson 8 months, 1 week ago

ANYONE, like Sam Brownback, who believes he has a mandate to ride roughshod over those lawful citizens who have honest disagreements with him deserve to start having pain and difficulty everywhere they turn. I don't know exactly what it will take for the average Kansan to realize the dangers he offers.

I am tired and growing just plain mad at his and his hypocritical friends forcing their ultra-conservative opinions down my throat. There is plenty of room in Kansas for divergent, lawful viewpoints but that's not good enough for Sam. YOU THINK MY WAY OR YOU DO NOT THINK AT ALL. This is the kind of stuff that creates revolutions. The U.S, Constitution is at risk in Kansas.

Is there anyone in Kansas who believes a pro-choice appellant will get a fair shake from this guy? In your dreams. This is not the kind of judge I would want for any kind of trial. Anyone who has already pre-judged any case is not a fair judge.

Something is wrong with a system that will allow someone that has never served as a judge at any level to become a member of an appeals court. My God, only seasoned judges should get these nods. Sam's gain is all of Kansas' loss.


cowboy 8 months, 1 week ago

Heavenly Sky god help us all. Stegall's claim to fame , minus any bench experience , is as an uber right wing ambulance chaser i.e. Phil Kline , abortion litigation and representing the Kansas coal fired plants . A well read religious fanatic he has coined many a complex web of literary gospels that should make anyone born after the 1700's shudder. Read some of this hyperbole.

It is obvious that the resumes were laid out left to right based on intolerance and extreme views and Brother Sam just said give me the one on the right.

This is both scary and pathetic .


question4u 8 months, 1 week ago

"In 2009, Stegall, writing an analysis for the Kansas Policy Institute, was highly critical of the 2005 Kansas Supreme Court decision that led to increased funding for schools."

Does anything else need to be said? Kansas has become a bona fide third-world state in which justice has no place. Brownback is a monstrous blight on democracy, but he didn't seize his power in a coup. Do Kansans really hate American values this much?


Larry Moss 8 months, 1 week ago

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this appointee. Except he is a Republican being appointed by a Republican. Face it, those on the left were going to complain about whoever was picked.

If the roles were reversed the same complaining would be going on by Republicans. So, while it's seems in vogue to be complaining, it's really just ordinary partisanship.


leaningleftist 8 months, 1 week ago

Well he didn't change the law, he changed the appointment process. And if you think labels like fascism and bought by the Koch brothers look good, I guess we know what side of the fence your on. I don't think I'd want want to be associated with either. And of course his first appointment is his chief counsel, well really did you expect anything less. He's a joke, unfortunately the jokes on us. And I'm curious what other states have adopted the same policies, my guess is they are red states. Politics bought and paid for.


jane_doe 8 months, 1 week ago

Wow.....Corliss is up Sam's behind? Should have known...


tails01 8 months, 1 week ago

"In the recently concluded legislative session, Brownback and his conservative allies passed a law that gave Brownback the power to appoint judges to the court with Senate confirmation."

This makes it sound like Brownback changed the law. He didn't. Kansas is just the most recent state to adopt (with bipartisan support) the new Federal system of judges, where the Gov. nominates and the Senate passes/vetoes.

This appointment will get a lot of attention because it's the first appointment under this new system.

The comments here mostly ridiculous. Labels of "fascism" or "bought by the Koch brothers" are neither true nor helpful. You make the far right look good.


trinity 8 months, 1 week ago

Sigh. I wish we could just stop this nonsense that Fabulous Sam is perpetrating on our State! This is a wince-some appointment. x_x


sciencegeek 8 months, 1 week ago

The fact that Steagall couldn't cut the mustard under independent scrutiny, and everyone knew he'd be nominated despite that, and the delay of the sham "interview" process until just before the rubber-stamp legislature comes back, is just another act in the same play--Brownback Thumbs His Nose at Kansas.

The unlimited, disgusting gall of the man.


kansas_cynic 8 months, 1 week ago

Bought and paid for by the Koch brothers.


8 months, 1 week ago

Wow, should have known............


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