Gov. Sam Brownback will get the chance to elevate his former legal counsel to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall was among three candidates recommended for a seat on the state’s high court Tuesday.
Also nominated were Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of Overland Park and District Judge Merlin Wheeler.
The recommendations were made by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, a panel made up of five lawyers and four nonlawyers.
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The commission spent Monday and Tuesday interviewing 13 candidates for the seat that came open when Justice Nancy Moritz was appointed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The nominations now go to Brownback, who has 60 days to fill the seat.
Last year, Brownback named Stegall as a judge to the Kansas Court of Appeals under a separate system giving him the power to appoint that court’s judges with consent of the Kansas Senate.
At the time Democrats assailed the appointment, calling it “Washington-style cronyism.” House Minority Leader Paul Davis accused Brownback of using the court as a “parking lot” for his “well-connected, partisan pals.”
Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, is running against Brownback in this year’s governor’s race.
Stegall is a 1993 graduate of Geneva College, a Christian liberal arts school in Beaver Falls, Pa. He graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1999, ranking third in a class of 187.
He went on to clerk for the chief judge of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was hired as an associate at the Foulston Siefkin law firm.
He later was elected Jefferson County attorney before taking a job as legal counsel with the Brownback administration.
Stegall has been open about his opposition to abortion. A lawsuit challenging rigid new rules for abortion clinics is pending in state court.
He also has worked as general counsel for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative think tank founded and partly funded by billionaires David and Charles Koch.
Here is a look at the other judges whose names were recommended for the post:
Arnold-Burger has been a Kansas Court of Appeals judge since 2011.
Before that, she was a municipal judge in Overland Park from 1991 to 1996 and presiding municipal judge from 1996 to 2011. She was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas from 1989 to 1991.
She is a graduate of KU and the KU School of Law.
Wheeler has been a judge in the 5th Judicial District since 1990. That district includes Lyon and Chase counties.
Before becoming a judge, he ran his own law firm from 1988 to 1990. He was city attorney for Emporia from 1977 to 1980.
He is a graduate of Dodge City Community College, Emporia State University and the Washburn University School of Law.