Archive for Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Senator says Stegall swearing in timed to avoid vote

September 24, 2013, 11:00 a.m. Updated September 24, 2013, 4:05 p.m.


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.

— Governor Sam Brownback's chief spokeswoman said Tuesday that the Kansas Senate's top Democrat has no grounds to suggest the swearing in of Brownback's chief counsel as a state appeals judge is being delayed to avoid a November 2014 statewide vote on whether the appointee stays on the bench.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley questions why Caleb Stegall isn't scheduled to take his seat on the Court of Appeals until Jan. 3. The GOP-dominated Senate confirmed Stegall's appointment to the state's second-highest court on Sept. 4, during a special legislative session that Brownback called to repair Kansas' first-degree murder sentencing law.

However, Brownback's office pointed to a letter that Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote to the Republican governor and top Republican legislators in late August, telling them the Court of Appeals would need additional money if the new judge joined it later this year.

Court officials have said the timing of Stegall's swearing in was dictated by the budget and a need to remodel space at the Kansas Judicial Center near the Statehouse for a new judge's suite.

"Mr. Hensley's comment that there is some ulterior motive in the timing is unfounded," Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said.

Even after being confirmed, Court of Appeals members are on the ballot every four years, with voters asked whether each should remain on the bench. A new judge faces such a vote in the first general election after a full year on the court.

If Stegall took his seat before Nov. 4, he'd face his first statewide retention vote in the November 2014 general election. But with his swearing in set for next year, he won't be on the ballot until November 2016.

"Is it possible that what they're trying to do is to distance themselves from the controversial nature of the appointment itself?" Hensley of Topeka said Monday during an interview with The Associated Press. "That's exactly what it suggests to me."

Brownback's nomination of Stegall to a new Court of Appeals seat received an unusual amount of attention partly because of Stegall's ties to the governor.

The appointment is also the first under a law that has the governor name Court of Appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation. It took effect in July.

Under the previous system, still in place for Kansas Supreme Court justices, a nominating commission screened applications and named three finalists. Legislators had no role after the governor's appointment.

Both systems require retention elections, however.

When ending their regular, annual session in June, lawmakers along with the judicial branch didn't expect a confirmation vote on a new Court of Appeals nominee to occur until early next year — and they budgeted accordingly.

Judicial branch spokeswoman Helen Pedigo said the timing of the swearing in wouldn't be an issue "but for the special session."

Hensley said he already considers Stegall a member of the court because the Senate confirmed him. Stegall plans to remain on Brownback's staff until January.

Also, Hensley noted that Brownback and other conservative Republicans who supported changing the Court of Appeals selection process argue the new method is accountable to the public because elected legislators are involved.

"Then, why shouldn't he stand for retention as soon as possible?" Hensley said of Stegall.

A similar issue arose in 2005, when Justice Eric Rosen joined the Kansas Supreme Court. Then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announced Rosen's appointment in early October 2005, but he wasn't sworn in for another seven weeks, until mid-November. Instead of facing his first retention vote in November 2006 — with GOP conservatives' criticism of Supreme Court decisions on funding for public schools still fresh — Rosen was on the ballot two years later.

At the time, then-Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays, a Topeka Republican, suggested the timing was designed "to get around the will of the people," calling it "fundamentally wrong." Democrats publicly voiced no qualms.

Meanwhile, retention elections haven't proven to be much of a hurdle to judges staying on the bench since the system replaced partisan elections in 1960. No Supreme Court justice or Court of Appeals judge has failed to receive 62 percent of the vote since.


yourworstnightmare 4 years, 7 months ago

Given Brownback's secretive and scheming track record, I would not doubt for one second that Hensley has accurately diagnosed the situation.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 7 months ago

reading too much in to this. the reason for not swearing him in is plausible.

BigDog 4 years, 7 months ago

I am sorry but it seems in Senator Hensley's world .... everything is a conspiracy .... unless he agrees with it.

nick_s 4 years, 7 months ago

Thats politicking, & that's why I dont trust any of them. They all seem disingenious.

optimist 4 years, 7 months ago

It sounds like there is nothing illegal or improper about it. Both parties have approached it in the same way recently. It seems rational to give the judge the opportunity to sit on the bench long enough for the people to truly evaluate him or her. Both sides are simply being petty and hypocritical on the issue.

BigDog 4 years, 7 months ago

optimist ... you are correct. both parties use the tools provided them to the max. sen. hensley didn't complain about the same issue when Governor Sebelius delayed the swearing in of Judge Rosen.

oldexbeat 4 years, 7 months ago

buy Sebelius didn't change the rules and then deny information to the public. Yup. Liar Sammy does it his way. Private. No names. No decision in public.

EveryMan 4 years, 7 months ago

So Hensley thinks that the special session was a conspiracy to get Stegall appointed right away, but now there is a conspiracy to delay the swearing in. Oh, Sen. Hensley, that is a lovely tinfoil hat you're wearing...

oldexbeat 4 years, 7 months ago

so Liar Sammy changed the process so that it would be more open and then won't tell anyone who applied, if anyone did -- then appoints his employee that had been turned down twice before -- then calls a special session for two days but not enough time to discuss the judge which he had to appoint before the session then putting off the actually taking of office until it is to late to involve the voters that he changed the process so that it would be more open ...

Huh? And we're not making the up. Really. What ever he says isn't ever true. Get used to that.

wastewatcher 4 years, 7 months ago

Who cares what the Liberal Senator Hensley thinks? He and his views have been repudiated time and time again by the citizens. Hensley is not relevant to anyone except his Liberal friends in the press and himself.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

Are you equally ok when your "side" is the minority?

And, if the "citizens" repudiate it? For example, Obama won election for the presidency twice now. Would you say that means "Who cares about what the Conservative wastewatcher thinks?"

skinney 4 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone out there belive that the governemnt in Topeka is on the up and up? I hope when the next election come up people will remember what has been going on. I hope that you also will relize that you have to vote out the people in the Senate and House that followed Brownback in firm lock step.

ENVIROPEACE 4 years, 7 months ago

What has brownback done for the poor & middle class people of Kansas?

avarom 4 years, 7 months ago

Only one word describes this nomination...............SHADY!

notsobright 4 years, 7 months ago

The rhetoric is simply mindless. . . . "shady." Where? First, the process had nothing to do with Stegall per se. Everything was done though our reps this last session changing the system to what other states like CA and NJ have (not to mention our Fed Gov't). It was all public and we the people now have a say through our reps.

As far as Hensley and his claims- the Dems should be embarrassed! He actually went on historic public record with claims such as Stegall supported KS "seceding" from the Union! FACT: The writing that Hensley referred to was an article Stegall wrote about Organic Farmers using his office parking lot in Perry KS, because they wanted to "secede" from the Lawrence Farmer's Market. This is the type of mindless political garbage that reps like Hensley produce. At least be intelligent, civil, and honest about the discussion.

Further, some of you truly know nothing about Stegall's life and record; a local product of the Lawrence community (many generations of family), top LSAT scores along with being one of the top KU law grads. He served the largest law office in our state, as a local prosecutor, and now oversees the current state admin's legal team of 100+ attorneys! He is an admirer of local communities, traditional institutions like family, schools, and even local markets! He would surprise you as to the various voices and views he likes such as Ralph Nader and Wendell Berry. I remember his interview on KU Public Radio a few years back. The interviewer finished and was astonished; while she found herself in a different political camp she admitted openly that she agreed with Stegall on almost every point he voiced.

Perhaps some of you should get past your empty bias and actually do some research of this man. You could not want a better person of character and mind hearing your case and making a legal judgement.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

We'd be able to better do that if we knew who the other applicants were - that way we could compare them with Stegall.

But, for some reason, the new "more transparent" process keeps those names secret, while the older one made them public.


avarom 4 years, 6 months ago

Stegall wrote in 2009 a book, called the history of prairie populism, that should say enough right there!

Religion is based on Faith; Law is based on Fact!

LegendaryBeast 4 years, 7 months ago

This is Kansas for you! If the vote isn't going to go your way, move the issue around to avoid any vote at all! That's how it works in Brownbackistan. I expect a Koch amendment to do away with any vote but a Koch vote soon anyway. Luckily I'm outta here to bluer pastures. I've had enough of this red pasture.

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