Credit Gov. Sam Brownback with nerve in wielding his new power to nominate judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals. His first pick was his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall (in photo) – whose nomination was dismissed by the governor’s spokeswoman in July as “premature speculation.” Stegall, who was passed over for the court last year under the nonpartisan nominating commission system recently scrapped by the Legislature, comes with strong references, strongly conservative credentials and good experience, including as Jefferson County’s elected prosecutor. But he also is closely associated with former Attorney General Phill Kline, having represented him during his legal woes related to prosecutions of abortion providers. Stegall’s nomination will go to the Kansas Senate for a hearing and confirmation vote during the Sept. 3 special session, but it’s hard to imagine he will encounter much opposition in a chamber that was reshaped last year by the victories of conservative Brownback-backed candidates. The governor’s office won’t release the names of other applicants. Welcome to the new world of appellate judicial selection in Kansas.
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