Senate confirms Brownback’s choice of Stegall

By Tim Carpenter
Topeka Capitol Journal Online

The Senate delivered an overwhelming and partisan vote Wednesday confirming Gov. Sam Brownback’s nomination of the administration’s top lawyer for a vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Debate fixated on the merits of Brownback’s newly acquired power to unilaterally control nominations to the Court of Appeals and to a lesser extent the qualities of Caleb Stegall, who was viewed by Republicans and Democrats as possessing intellectual firepower and varied legal experience to serve capably on the bench.

The vote before adjournment of the two-day special session of the Legislature was 32-8 in support of Stegall, who has worked as general counsel to Brownback since 2011. Stegall, 41, of rural Lawrence, is a former prosecutor in Jefferson County, attorney at one of the state’s largest firms and the founder of a small legal practice.

“We need to be focused on who is the qualified nominee and who is the experienced nominee,” said Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson. “I can find nothing in his record that would prevent him from fulfilling the duties of that job appropriately. He is amply qualified.”

Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said he opposed the nomination of Stegall despite a sense the nominee had appropriate credentials to serve on the appellate bench. The “no” vote reflected deeply held opposition to the new judicial selection process, Haley said.

“It is not against the nominee,” Haley said. “It’s against the procedure.”

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