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In charge of all

9/3/2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback makes no apologies for his ongoing power grab in Topeka. Why would he? He's accountable to nobody -- other than mere residents of the state.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback makes no apologies for his ongoing power grab in Topeka. Why would he? He's accountable to nobody -- other than mere residents of the state.

On Friday, the governor made his first appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court with Caleb Stegall. Stegall brings strong beliefs to the bench but not much experience as he's only worn a judge's robe since January when Brownback appointed him to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In selecting Stegall for the high court, the governor passed on two judges who each possessed more than 20 years on the bench.

Brownback promises "Justice Stegall will be an excellent addition to the Kansas Supreme Court."

He'll certainly support Brownback's view of justice for the Sunflower State. Stegall is on the record as against women having abortions, against individuals believing they have a right to die, and against K-12 public education students receiving suitable funding. Such positions will come in handy as cases spawn from Brownback's signature imposing more restrictions on abortion and less money for classrooms.

Stegall was passed over twice for the court of appeals by the long-established nominating committee, so Brownback and his moderate GOP-free Legislature rewrote the law to give the governor sole discretion. That opened the door for the state's chief executive to promote his own legal counsel. The committee remains in place for Supreme Court nominee screening, but members likely saw the wisdom of offering Stegall as one of its three recommendations. Otherwise, it would have been the last time they vetted anybody for the bench.

Stegall's second promotion within a year will result in a lifelong appointment. Having little to no experience as a judge will not necessarily be a handicap. Both Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss and the Honorable Dan Biles have made the transition. And we recall Stegall receiving praise from knowledgeable legal minds from both sides of the aisle.

We remain concerned Stegall once worked for Americans for Prosperity, that he defended the disgraced former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, and that he found the state's education funding to be "reckless spending." But we'll defer to more qualified opinions such as former AG Steve Six who believes Stegall will make a good justice.

We won't be convinced, however, the process used to get Stegall on the high court resembled anything but a mockery of the democratic republic principles we once held so dear. Clearly the governor is following his conscience, which should be fine if it fit within the parameters of the checks and balances built into the state constitution.

Brownback's meddling in the 2012 legislative elections allowed him the votes to tinker with the judicial branch. This part of the governor's grand experiment does not bode well for the state's future. There simply is too much power being concentrated at Cedar Crest.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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