Despite Debate, Senate Approves Stegall Confirmation

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The nomination drew strong views from both sides of the aisle, but the Kansas Senate voted late Wednesday afternoon to confirm Caleg Stegall's appointment the Kansas Court of Appeals.

The 32 to 8 vote reflects the Senate's Republican / Democrat split. Senators spent more than an hour debating Stegall's nomination before the vote.

Stegall served as the Gov. Sam Brownback's chief attorney before his appointment. His relationship to the Governor was among reasons critics cited in opposing his appointment. Stegall was the first Appeals Court judge nominated under a new process where the Governor alone screens applicants and makes the selection, subject to Senate confirmation. Gov. Brownback opted not to make public the names of the other applicants for the position.

In the past, a nominating commission interviewed applicants and forwarded three names to the Governor from which to choose. The group did publicly release applicants' names.

Opponents also spoke out on the secrecy surrounding the process. They said the could not evaluate whether Stegall was, in fact, the best applicant because they did not know the other applicants to whom he was compared.

But supporters pointed out applicants for federal positions are not publicly named, either. As for those who questioned Stegall's associations with conservative causes, they point to recommendations Stegall received from people from all political backgrounds. While Stegall does not have prior judicial experience, supporters say, neither did several other people who were appointed to the bench.

Stegall answered questions Tuesday for more than an hour from the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said many groups with whom critics associate him were clients who he represented as an attorney.

Stegall said all judges come to the bench with personal experiences, but it is incumbent upon all judges to set those biases aside and issue ruling based on what is written in law.

Stegall said his broad array of experience would bring diversity to the bench. He had served as a judicial clerk, private attorney in large and small practice and a prosecutor in Jefferson County before joining the Governor's staff.