Panel interviewing Kansas Supreme Court applicants

Topeka Captial
Topeka Captial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas commission on Monday began two days of interviews with 14 judges and attorneys who applied for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission was expected to forward the names of three finalists to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday. The interviews are open to the public, but the commission will deliberate privately. Five of the commission’s nine members are attorneys elected by other attorneys, and the other four are non-lawyers appointed by the governor.

It will be Brownback’s first appointment to the seven-member Supreme Court. His selection will replace Nancy Moritz, who took a seat on the federal appeals court for six western and Plains states, including Kansas. Four state Court of Appeals judges, three district court judges and seven attorneys applied for the position.

Brownback must pick one of the finalists, with no role for legislators. Brownback has called the process undemocratic, and other GOP conservatives argue that it isn’t accountable to the public. Backers of the process contend that it minimizes partisan politics.

The applicants include Caleb Stegall, Brownback’s chief counsel until the governor appointed him last year to the Court of Appeals under a new law pushed through the Legislature by GOP conservatives. The law cut the commission out of screening applicants and allowed the governor to make the appointment, subject to state Senate confirmation.

Brownback did not release the other applicants’ names, but the Senate’s debates on Stegall’s appointment were open, and he submitted more than 300 pages of material to lawmakers.

Lawmakers did not revise the selection process for Supreme Court justices because it would require amending the state constitution, which takes two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and approval by a simple majority of voters.

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