Stegall among 14 Kansas Supreme Court applicants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former aide to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback who now serves on the Kansas Court of Appeals is among 14 applicants to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy.

The application deadline was Thursday, and Judge Caleb Stegall and three other Court of Appeals members, including Chief Judge Thomas Malone, are seeking the seat. They were joined by three district court judges and seven lawyers.

Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz is stepping down July 28 for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Her replacement will be Brownback’s first appointment to the state’s highest court.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission plans to interview the applicants Aug. 4 and 5 and submit the names of three finalists to Brownback. He will make the appointment, with no role for legislators.

Stegall was Brownback’s chief counsel before the conservative GOP governor named him to the Court of Appeals last year under a new system bypassing the commission but adding Kansas Senate confirmation.

The change was made by law, but a state constitutional amendment is necessary to alter how Supreme Court justices are named.

Brownback’s office did not disclose the other applicants for the Court of Appeals seat filled by Stegall, but the Senate had open hearings and debate before confirming him. The commission’s interviews of Supreme Court applicants are open to the public, but its deliberations are closed when it picks finalists.

Supporters of the Court of Appeals system contend it’s more open. Backers of the Supreme Court system contend it screens out partisan politics.

Also seeking the Supreme Court seat is another Brownback appointee to the Court of Appeals, Judge Tony Powell, formerly a leading GOP conservative in the Kansas House. Besides Malone, the other Court of Appeals judge is Karen Arnold-Burger.

The district court judges are Daniel Creitz of Neosho County, Steven Montgomery of Miami County and Merlin Wheeler of Lyon County. Creitz and Wheeler are the chief administrative judges in their judicial districts.

The lawyers applying are Victor Braden, of Lawrence; Dennis Depew, of Neodesha; Linda Kirby, of Wichita; David Klaassen, of Marquette, Anthony Mattivi, of Topeka; Steven Obermeier, of Olathe; and Curtis Roggow, of Shawnee. Depew is the Kansas Bar Association’s immediate past president.

 

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