Archive for Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Senate committee recommends Stegall for appeals court

September 3, 2013


— A Senate committee on Tuesday recommended approval of Gov. Sam Brownback's nomination of Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals under a new judicial selection process that has generated criticism from Democrats and open government advocates.

Stegall's supporters described him as a top-notch lawyer with a pristine reputation, while detractors called into question his ability to separate his political beliefs from rulings he'll be asked to make on the state's second highest court.

Stegall, 41, who is Brownback's chief counsel, faced questions about a written statement from 2005 in which he advocated "forcible resistance" to a court order to remove life support from Terri Schiavo. The Florida woman had been in a vegetative state and was at the center of the national right-to-die debate.

Stegall said his support of "forcible resistance" to the court order was an example of civil disobedience that is well-recognized in history as a needed step to advance social progress, such as in the area of Civil Rights.

But Stegall said he was not speaking as a judge when he made the Schiavo statement, and that he would be able to put aside personal beliefs and biases if confirmed to the bench by the full Senate, which will take up his nomination Wednesday.

Under questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Stegall, who has represented conservative groups and politicians such as former attorney general Phill Kline, said he would faithfully and impartially interpret the law. "That is absolutely what I would do," he said.

The committee voted to confirm his nomination with only Republican support.

Concerning the Schiavo case, Stegall, who had been editor of The New Pantagruel, an online Christian magazine, and his colleagues at the magazine issued an editorial statement.

"It now appears that all legal recourse to save Terri’s life has failed. As Terri’s family and millions of people know, the State is wrong. There is a higher law. If last-ditch efforts in the Florida Legislature and the United States Congress also fail, and the administration of Governor Jeb Bush fails in its duty to uphold the higher law, those closest to Terri—her family, friends, and members of their communities of care—are morally free to contemplate and take extra-legal action as they deem it necessary to save Terri’s life, up to and including forcible resistance to the State’s coercive and unjust implementation of Terri’s death by starvation," the statement said.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka criticized Stegall and said he was not fit to serve on the bench.

"An individual who openly advocates forcible resistance of a valid court order relying on a higher law raises serious questions as to their qualification to be appointed to the second highest court in the state of Kansas," Hensley said.

Hensley said Stegall's nomination "demonstrates the worst kind of political cronyism that is alive and well today under Gov. Sam Brownback."

Hensley said that Stegall has no judicial experience, has worked for the most right-wing groups in the state and has indicated an inability to prevent his political agenda "from clouding his legal work."

Stegall described Hensley's statements as mischaracterizations and smears.

Stegall was praised by several fellow legislators, including state Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, who is also chief of police in Perry, and worked on a homicide case with Stegall when Stegall was the Jefferson County prosecutor.

"He was very, very competent," said Gonzalez.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said Stegall has a "pristine reputation," and "knows the proper place of the judiciary."

The League of Women Voters and MainStream Coalition opposed the nomination because they said Brownback had made the new selection process more secretive and partisan than the former system.

Brownback, with the help of Stegall and conservative Republicans in the Legislature, pushed for a new law that allows the governor to select judges for the appeals court, subject to Senate confirmation. Stegall is the first one selected under this new method.

Under the former system, a nominating commission took applications and interviewed candidates before forwarding three possible nominees to the governor, who picked one. The nominating commission had made public all applicants, while Brownback has refused to divulge the names other those who applied.


avarom 4 years, 7 months ago

Stegall is a decent writer, probably going to use his writing skills for new bills and mandates. Bet he can write up some decent speeches for his friends.

Orwell 4 years, 8 months ago

Brownback, through his henchman Kensinger, uses Koch millions to buy a compliant legislature. Then he moves on the judiciary and pretends to look the other way while his partner in crime Kobach does everything possible to suppress the public's ability to restrain an extremist agenda.

If the party affiliations were reversed every Republican in the state would be screaming "Dictatorship!"

EveryMan 4 years, 8 months ago

Since the full context is not being discussed, I'll share what was stated at the hearing today.

Stegall testified at the hearing that the question posed regarding forcible resistance was whether it is morally permissible for a father to give his daughter who was dying of dehydration a drink of water after a court has said no. To give her a drink would be forcible resistance. I guess Sen. Hensley would try to stop the father from giving the drink of water to the dying daughter. By the way, Stegall also stated that the father had to be willing to accept punishment from the authorities if he gave the drink of water to his dying daughter. Hensley left that out too...go figure

Hensley needs to look at himself in the mirror and see what he's turning into.

Bob Forer 4 years, 8 months ago

"......her family, friends, and members of their communities of care—are morally free to contemplate and take extra-legal action as they deem it necessary to save Terri’s life, up to and including forcible resistance to the State’s coercive and unjust implementation of Terri’s death by starvation"

Where does it say anything about a drink of water. What a bunch of intellectually dishonest nonsense. Everyman, you need to look at yourself in the mirror.

oldexbeat 4 years, 8 months ago

you really have left out all the important details -- the decade of care that her husband provided and his decision being attacked by outsiders such as Liar Sammy Brownback. There was no way to save the woman. Your silly water example is not one that fits the actual facts, if it might really matter to you.

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

A drink of water? She wasn't able to drink water. She was being fed and hydrated through tubes.

july241983 4 years, 8 months ago

I saw his example of giving a drink of water as "forcible resistance" published elsewhere. But I also saw that Stegall said he is a champion of using/interpreting the "plain meaning of words." I wish someone on the committee would have asked him for his view of the plain meaning of "forcible resistance."

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 8 months ago

Yes , and ask him to explain how "Forcible Resistance" is a type of "Civil Disobedience". It is Disobedience, but not civil." Forcible" is the Key word here. "Passive Resistance" would fall under "Civil Disobedience"." Forcible Resistance" implies physically acting against a person, statute, law ,or policy in a forcible way(i.e. against their will or against the law). That could land you in Jail on a number of charges. "Civil Disobedience" such as Protests or Marches are Protected under our Constitution." Forcible Resistance" is not. A nominee for such an important position should know the difference.

oldexbeat 4 years, 8 months ago

Liar Sammy Brownback, as senator, was one of the outsiders that decided the husband (who had taken care of Terry for years) was not to be allowed to make the decisions about her care. Again, as with women confronting health issues, Brownback and Stegall make it clear they would place outsiders between a woman and her doctor. They are dishonest. Sammy has lied about almost everything he has done. Even one of his board of regents appointments lied about his political party so Sammy could add another Republican to the Regents.. Stegall is not telling the truth about what he will do. I'll bet $100 bucks on that...

Michael LoBurgio 4 years, 8 months ago

Kansans for Fair Courts

Special Session, Day 1 Highlights: How long did it take for Senate Judiciary Cmte. to “thoroughly question” judicial nominee?

1 hour.

Out of 11 Senators on the committee, how many asked questions? Only 6. How much did today cost Kansas taxpayers? $45,000. Where are most lawmaker’s eating dinner tonight? Private party at Governor’s mansion. What are you having for dinner?

Michael LoBurgio 4 years, 8 months ago

Gov. Brownback’s choice for the court of appeals seems to be an

expert on morality, abortion, Christianity, end-of-life care and the noblest of work…helping billionaires serve themselves. But, is he the most qualified person for the job?

Brownback continues to hide from taxpayers by refusing to release the names of the other applicants. But, don’t worry, Brownback is about to spend $120,000 in taxpayer money to rubberstamp him. #KSFairCourts

Jim Russo 4 years, 8 months ago

Yesterday's confirmation hearing confirms only one thing: the system for nominating appeals judges is broken. If the LJW had not published the story on the Schiavo editorial, would it have become public knowledge? Mr. Stegall and the governor's office certainly did nothing to make it public in advance so that it could be addressed.

As a poster above has noted, Stegall misrepresented the editorial as being simply about whether it was right for the father to give his daughter a drink of water. Giving her a drink of water would not "save her life"--the goal that Stegall and his co-signees used to justify law-breaking actions.

Further, we should remember the context of the time the editorial was written. Protestors were arrested for trying to cross picket lines with cups of water, which hardly seems to have been "forcible resistance." However, one of the types of forcible resistance that was being discussed was a Michigan militia leader's call for an unarmed militia to storm the hospice and take her to a safe house ( Would Mr. Stegall have advocated this action? We will never know, thanks to the rushed and incomplete vetting. (Mr. Stegall also suffered when Senator Hensley incorrectly asserted that Stegall had attended a meeting of secessionists; if Mr. Hensley had taken the time to do a careful reading, he would have realized his accusation was wrong and unfair.)

Finally, Mr. Stegall referenced the tradition of civil disobedience in the U.S. That's true, but Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was referenced several times yesterday in the discussion, was slow to recognize the validity of civil disobedience and always abhorred any use of force to carry it out.

Ultimately, we shouldn't be arguing about this here. The governor's office and the legislature should have aired the issue thoroughly, with testimony from experts for both sides.

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