Archive for Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stegall wins Senate confirmation to Kansas Court of Appeals

September 4, 2013


— In an historic vote after a contentious debate, the Kansas Senate on Wednesday confirmed Gov. Sam Brownback's nomination of his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

The approval of Stegall for the state's second-highest court represented the first nomination under a new judicial selection system that was pushed for by Brownback, Stegall and conservative Republicans who dominate the Legislature.

Stegall, 41, was confirmed on a partisan vote of 32-8.

Stegall, a former Jefferson County prosecutor, was praised by supporters as a top-notch and fair-minded lawyer who would apply the law impartially. They pointed out that Stegall had received glowing letters of support from both Republicans and Democrats.

But detractors came from two camps — those who said they feared Stegall's conservative ideology would taint his judicial decisions, and those who complained that Brownback's selection was shrouded in secrecy and politicized the judiciary.

In 2005, as editor of an online magazine, Stegall encouraged "forcible resistance" to a court order to remove the life support from Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was the center of a national debate on the right to die. In the article, Stegall referred to a "higher law" to protect Schiavo.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said Stegall had "publicly advocated for mob rule based on a higher law."

But Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said Stegall had defended his comment, saying that it represented the theory of civil disobedience.

During his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Stegall said as a judge he would follow the law as written in statutes.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, criticized the way Stegall was nominated by Brownback.

"The process was so secret and the public was not allowed in," Hensley said.

Under the new process, the governor appoints judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals with confirmation from the Senate. Brownback declined to divulge who else applied for the job.

Under the former system, a nominating commission interviewed candidates and submitted three potential nominees to the governor, who would pick one. The names of all applicants were made public.

But state Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said he was tired of the governor "being raked over the coals." Ostmeyer said Stegall "is a great guy," adding, "I'm disappointed that we drag someone through the gutter, such a good person."


EveryMan 4 years, 7 months ago

Caleb Stegall will be an outstanding addition to the Kansas Court of Appeals. It's about time we have a prosecutor at the appellate level.

Bob Forer 4 years, 7 months ago

You obviously don't know what you are talking about. Supreme Court Justice Kay McFarland was a prosecutor.

july241983 4 years, 7 months ago

To go along with former prosecutors Justice Moritz (former AUSA), Justice Rosen (former ADA), Justice Johnson (former city attorney), and Justice Biles (former Asst. AG - litigation). Or in the Court of Appeals - Judge Pierron (former ADA), Judge Hill (former County Attorney), Judge Buser (former ADA), Judge Atcheson (former ADA), and Judge Arnold-Burger (former Asst. City Attorney and former AUSA). But otherwise, you're right. It's great to finally get a prosecutor on the appellate bench.

Shelley Bock 4 years, 7 months ago

And Justice Stephen Hill on the Court of Appeals, formerly County Attorney of Miami County.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 7 months ago

actually Linn County. He was the Miami County Judge. Great guy by the way, we all miss him.

EveryMan 4 years, 7 months ago

I spent some time last night and addressed your post point by point showing how only Judge Arnold-Burger can honestly be called a prosecutor. Many were only ADA's or AUSA's for two or three years back in the 70's or 80's and others were also criminal defense attorneys or were only civil litigators in AG' Office or US Atty's Office, and I noted that Justice McFarland is now deceased and thus no longer on the Court, but I see it has been removed for some reason. My point was that I should have originally said "a real prosecutor."

Curveball 4 years, 7 months ago

As I understand it, under the old process a group of private lawyers picked the nominee for the judgeship. I think it was the Kansas Bar Association or some similar organization. The Democrats never did seem to have a problem with any of Kathleen's picks. Have you ever noticed that when the liberals don't get their way the first thing they do is run to a friendly judge to get something overturned or declared "Uncontitutional." Unconstitutional usually means the judge doesn't like the previous outcome. Under the old system it looks like the lawyers were able to stack the deck when it came time for their appeals or other court proceedings. Think about it, a private organization with a large role in the justice system. Conflict of interest? Oh, i'm Shocked!

Grump 4 years, 7 months ago

No, that's not how it worked. Do some research.

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

In general- YES it did work that way. Judges were determined by a committee who had no accountability to the people. This new system gives us all a say through our representatives. Let's be honest, the only reason people are upset is because we have a conservative governor and legislature- which by the way, is the will of the vast majority of Kansans. It is about time that are judiciary reflects the will of the people.

hillsandtrees 4 years, 7 months ago

Many people disagree with you. We consider the previous selection based on merit - experience and knowledge of the law, not politics. The previous process was open - applicants were named and the interviews were open to the public. Three applicants were recommended to the Governor, who made the final selection.

Now we have a secret system - we don't know who applied, who was interviewed, what questions were asked in the interview, or how the applicants answered.

Also, the Governor made four of the nine committee selections and the Governor made the final decision. The other five members were also selected by election. Many of us like the idea that potential judges are interviewed by attorneys - who know the law.

Will you still be happy when we have a Democrat again for Governor? We've had more years of Democrat governors in the past 50 years than Republican.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

You should write a letter to Obama and tell him you want unaccountable lawyers choosing the nominees for the SCOTUS from now on because you don't trust him to choose wisely.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

We can't say what the "will of the vast majority of Kansans" is, in fact, because about 50% of them didn't vote in the last election.

What we know is that about 2/3 of those voted for Governor Brownback, which means that about 1/3 of the eligible voters in KS voted for him. Some of those aren't happy with what he's done, and say they won't vote for him again.

That means that the current governor is a reflection of about 30% of the eligible voters in KS, which is a minority of them, not a "vast majority".

hillsandtrees 4 years, 7 months ago

angleofview had a good response: angleofview 4 days, 6 hours ago

" you are incorrect. This is the selection/appointment process for members of the Supreme Ct nominating commission: - Four of the Commission's members are non-attorneys appointed by the Governor; - Four are attorneys selected by attorneys in each of the four Congressional Districts; - The Chair is an attorney elected by attorneys in a statewide vote.

The commission isn't dominated by attorneys and the Bar Assn. has no appointment authority.

Your understanding is based on a common falsehood stated by those who want to mislead the public about why they support a political appointment rather than an independent process."

rtwngr 4 years, 7 months ago

The point being, it was a partisan process before with less transparency than now.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

How can that be, when the previous selection process involved making names of applicants public, and the current one keeps them secret?

William Weissbeck 4 years, 7 months ago

You apparently don't realize that all lawyers can be members of the KBA. And do you really think that politicians are better judges of judges than lawyers? Lawyers have clients with diverse interests. They can't pick "what side to be on." Therefore they have a vested interest in having an impartial judge. Politicians do not share that interest.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

But again, how do you really know that the Koch's are pulling the strings? Apart from speculation and inferences, do you have any real evidence for this charge?

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 7 months ago

Stegall will bring a refreshing jolt of ideology and putting religious beliefs above the law that we desperately need. It's about time that christians in kansas have a voice in the judicial system that puts faith above law. Amen!

Shelley Bock 4 years, 7 months ago

That is a very, very scary statement, " above law". That's so against the concepts of the Founding Fathers and the United States Constitution.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

But all people bring some form of ideology to the bench or they come as a jellyfish, so it should not be a surprise that he has an ideology. However, why do you think that he wil put his religious beliefs above the law? All people have religious beliefs in some way or another, so it appears that you are unhappy with what your perceive Judge Stegall's beliefs to be. Do you really know what faith is or how Judge Stegall defines or thinks of faith? Why do you think that he will put faith above law? According to your system of faith, which all have faith in something, are you putting your faith above the law and simply don't like how he views the law?

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

A cursory search of his writings reveals his predilection to place his religious tenets above the law. Advocating forcible resistance to the law in service to a higher moral order does not indicate a tendency to respect the supremacy of the secular law.

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

Seriously- do you have a problem with Rosa Parks, the underground railroad, or those who sought to hide and protect Jews and Christians in Germany?

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

Not at all, but then none of the examples tossed out were in position to interpret the law for the entire population of the states in which they lived. Following one's conscience is great for individuals. For judges, not so much. Judges are theoretically supposed to interpret the secular meaning of the secular law.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

But the examples "tossed out" were larger than the particular issue which Judge Stegall was referring to. He was specifically referring to a case where a woman was ordered to be allowed to starve to death. I might add that when Stegall wrote that he was not a judge, but an individual. Why are judges theoretically supposed to interpret a secular meaning of the secular law? Are you so sure that the law is totally secular?

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

I would argue that perhaps more than a cursory search is needed to understand a person's viewpoints. As far as advocating forcible resistance to the law in service to a higher moral order, that is precisely what M.L. King did. However, I suppose one might want to Judge Stegall to define what he means be forcible resistance to the law in that instance. One would also want to define what he would limit or not limit a higher moral order to. Is the saving of a life a higher moral order than taking a life? The concept of higher moral order is not in and of itself a religious position.

Jim Russo 4 years, 7 months ago

Martin Luther King advocated nonviolent resistance. Malcolm X advocated forcible resistance.

I agree with you, though, that discerning someone's viewpoint requires more than the cursory discussion that occurred during the nomination and confirmation process.

If Mr. Stegall had advocated forcible resistance to save the life of a death row inmate or of an endangered animal, perhaps a few more eyebrows and voices would have been raised by those vetting and confirming him.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

You are correct that ML King advocated nonviolent resistance, but what he actually "did" or at least what came of what he actually led to violence. It is a curious thing that what one advocates may not have the result of what one advocates, but instead can result in the opposite of it. Would forcible resistance in the case Judge Stegall spoke of simply mean taking the person to another location and making sure she had the proper food to survive? It appears that some seem to think that Judge Stegall was advocating an armed uprising, but I am not sure that is what he meant. Forcible resistance is as flexible as law enforcement's language of "use of force" which can escalate from something very mild to deadly force. If he had advocated forcible resistance and meant that people should take up arms and kill others to rescue the starving woman, which he did not, that would lead to some justifiable alarm.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

The violence was done by those in power, like police, not by King and his followers.

He advocated and practiced passive civil resistance, not violence.

Either way, he was advocating violating the law, after courts and appeals courts had ruled on the issue. Not somebody I want as a judge.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

My guess in that instance is that the forcible resistance is someone providing nutrition to Shiavo against a court order. If she were my daughter and the state was starving her I might resist such a ruling if I did not believe allowing her to die would be ethical.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

And that would be your right.

Of course, you should be willing to accept the consequences of breaking the law if you do that.

However, the question here is whether a judge should advocate those sorts of things or not. Generally speaking, judges are supposed to interpret and apply the law, which implies a certain level of respect for it. Stegall's writings show that he holds his own personal beliefs above the law, which isn't a great indication of respect for the law.

Also, from a little research, it seems that it was determined that Terry Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state, and that she wouldn't have wanted to be kept alive indefinitely in that condition. The case was appealed several times, and thoroughly litigated before she was taken off of the machines.

The best way to prevent these sorts of cases is to have a "living will" and/or "dnr declaration" which clearly states the wishes of the person. Of course, when people are young, they don't generally think of these kinds of problems.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

Sure, he's dumb enough to put religious beliefs into his decisions so they can be overturned at the federal level. I bet all judges have big celebrations every time one of their decisions is vacated because of conflicts with the constitution.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 7 months ago

Please tell me that was sarcasm. If not, you apparently just dismissed the religious convictions of all the other judges.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 7 months ago

In my best Jim Nabors voice: "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!"

oldbaldguy 4 years, 7 months ago

He is qualified for the job. This what you get with the new system. Only time will tell.

bevy 4 years, 7 months ago

I don't doubt he's a qualified ATTORNEY. But from what I've read, he's never judged so much as a pie-eating contest. Putting a person with no judiciary experience on the appeals court is just plain irresponsible.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

But isn't it the case that all judges had no experience the first time they were appointed? Isn't it the case that a major part of being a judge is making a judgment on the law? So if one is highly qualified as an attorney and knows the law, he just might be an excellent judge. Perhaps knowing the law and going by the law means doing things that are not politically correct, but that does not mean that it is irresponsible to be on an appeals court. After all, all appeals should be appeals based on law.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps, but this is an appeals court position.

I would imagine that most appeals court judges have previously been judges.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

I think I understand what you are saying, but the real issue has to do with making decisions based on law. An appeal is supposed to be based on law. The job of a judge is to make sure a trial is carried out according to the law. So understanding the law is what is important.

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

That would quickly eliminate most judges!

jkl1939 4 years, 7 months ago

What is wrong with lawyers recommending candidates for the appellate court? Who knows them better than their peers? Would you want grocery clerks picking plumbers? Would you want a plumber picking your doctor? The system was not broken. It was just a system that Sam could not control.

Richard Smith 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, Governor Browback has a JD from the University of Kansas School of Law. So it was a lawyer recommending a candidate for the court. Then how many lawyers are part of the Kansas Senate? Some saw the old system as broken and a way for one side to pick the person they want. Some see the new system as a way for one side to pick the person they want. It seems to me that a system that requires the Kansas Senate to confirm the candidate has more fairness than one that simply depends on a small committee to pick them.

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

What is "wrong. . .?" There was no accountability to the people. Now we have a say through our representatives. This process is now transparent. Why is this a problem? So we can have an unelected committee decide (with no accountability), OR our elected officials (Gov. and Senators) who are accountable to us? Hmmm. . . I find it interesting. . . control?? Who controlled whom?

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

How is it transparent when the names of the applicants are kept secret?

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

The Governor is an elected official, and his nominee is now under scrutiny of the people. The judge is not appointed until OUR representatives confirm him/her. Does the President have to tell us every person, and every criteria he considers for appointed positions?

Besides all of this- why is any of this being discussed in regards Judge Stegall? This procedural debate already took place 6 months ago and OUR representatives decided on this issue. Done!

The only question that needed to be answered is whether Judge Stegall was qualified. And his credentials; from one of the top KU law school grads, to working in the #1 law firm of KS, to the high profile cases he represented, to working in real life of Kansan people, to being an elected prosecutor, to the top legal counsel for our state, all the way to his impeccable character were compelling.

We should all be embarrassed when the best our KS Senate Minority Leader can do - on public record I might ad- is attempt to question Stegall's integrity by accusing him of writing about "secession from the Union." As it turns out, this claim comes from a piece that Stegall wrote on Organic Farmers setting up their own market in Perry, KS (Yes they were "seceding" from other local markets to have their own!)

Rather than question Judge Stegall, some of you may want to re-think your Senators whose research skills and inability to reflect clearly at a man's education, skills, and character. I suspect that the Dems display in this entire process, including the gross display in the media, will be the point remembered in history.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, we don't know who any of the other applicants were, so we can't make an informed decision about whether Stegall is the most qualified of them.

In the previous process, the public knew who the applicants were, and so could make such a decision.

Somebody who's never been a judge may not be the best choice for an appeals court position.

MY representatives didn't vote for this change - minorities are simply outvoted in our system.

Stegall's writings indicate a number of things to be concerned about, from my perspective, including the urging of "extra legal" action when court decisions don't go the way you want them to go.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

Where was the last place you applied for a job, Jafs, and under what name? If you care so little about about the privacy of other citizens, you should care equally for your own.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

It's not a good analogy, since I am not an appeals court judge.

If I were applying for that sort of job, I'd have absolutely no problem with my name being made public.

hillsandtrees 4 years, 7 months ago

The way I see it - the previous process had the Governor selecting the Judge. The new process has the Governor selecting the Judge.

But, before, we were told who all the candidates were and could listen to the interviews. Now we only know who the Governor picked. No way to decide in our own minds who might have been the better judge.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

Lawyers recommending judges is like wolves recommending another wolf to guard the chicken coop. That system is broken.

hillsandtrees 4 years, 7 months ago

You think attorneys will choose judges who don't know the law, don't respect the law, who don't have the broad experience with a range of issues, or who will make decisions based on ideology or politics instead of the law?

And you think that politicians will only want knowledgeable, broadly experienced judges who will only make decisions based on law and not ideology or politics?

Or do you really want judges who will make decisions based on your idea of justice?

avarom 4 years, 7 months ago

Religion and Politics are like Oil and Water, they just don't make a good mix and never will!! The only reason religion is heavily involved in politics is because religious organizations donate to the campaigns of political leaders and they in turn push the religious agenda to keep receiving their financing. It is reprehensible that what is best for these leaders’ constituents is below those of their campaign contributors. And politicians need to learn to leave their personal beliefs at home. Not one politician in this country can say all of their constituents are of the same religious affiliation. Therefore, they should not allow their religious practices and beliefs to follow them into the Capitol building.

There will always be a debate about the extent to which religion should influence law, but the reality is that religious influence does more harm than good. Religious divides are creating political ones that are dangerous, especially now when the country needs to come together to resolve its current issues. Religion is based on faith; Law is based on fact. Legislation becomes blurred when the two are mixed. To me, politics and religion is like a marriage between Ayn Rand and Mother Teresa! Yikes!!

avarom 4 years, 7 months ago

Here's an example of all the 501 (3) c's just in Lawrence alone there are 665 non profits.....makes you wonder if the Foxes are watching the Hen House.............

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