KU law professor calls arguing before High Court memorable, impactful

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - A University of Kansas distinguished law professor has extra reason to be pleased with this week's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding death sentences for three Kansas men. He helped argue the case.

Stephen McAllister

In addition to his KU role, Stephen McAllister works with Attorney General Derek Schmidt as the state's Solicitor General. McAllister appeared with Schmidt in October before the nation's High Court, arguing the Kansas Supreme Court incorrectly applied federal law in the death penalty cases of Reginald and Jonathan Carr and Sydney Gleason.

McAllister previously argued several other cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and says it is a special experience.

"With nine of them - eight of them who are extremely active during oral arguments - they kind of surround you side to side and they often interrupt you. They interrupt each other," he said. "It's very sort of rapid-paced and the setting is so magnificent. I'm still sort of in awe of it every time I stand up in that courtroom and you feel, I guess in a sense, like you're a little tiny piece of history."

Several Kansas Republican leaders used Wednesday's decision as an example of why Kansas should change how it selects its state Supreme Court justices, noting it's not the first time the nation's High Court overturned one of their rulings. In his State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback called on lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment changing the judicial selection process.

McAllister declined to weigh in on the debate, but did acknowledge these cases could have an impact.

"There certainly is, at a minimum, I think a difference in perspective on federal law between the U.S. Supreme Court currently and the Kansas Supreme Court and that's been true for at least the last 10 years or so," he said. "One consequence of this decision may be the Kansas Supreme Court looks more closely at state law arguments about death sentences going forward."

The Carr and Gleason cases now return to the Kansas Supreme Court to consider other legal issues, so McAllister says it could be some time before they're completely settled.