Sam Brownback predictably picks his right-hand man in Caleb Stegall for the Kansas Supreme Court

Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t have to look far to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court. Caleb Stegall less than a year ago was Brownback’s lawyer.

Stegall finds himself on the Kansas Supreme Court with less than a year’s time as a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Brownback thought Stegall would make a better pick than either Karen Arnold-Burger (a Kansas Court of Appeals judge since 2011) and Merlin Wheeler (chief judge in the Kansas 5th Judicial District since 1997).

Brownback perhaps sees some of himself in Stegall.

Stegall, like Brownback, doesn’t seem to think it’s the judiciary’s place to tell the Legislature to meet its constitutional requirement to adequately fund education. 

Stegall, like Brownback, is devoutly religious and stridently opposed to abortion. (Stegall at times represented former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.)

Stegall, like Brownback, has benefited from the political capital offered by Wichita’s Koch brothers. (Stegall worked as a lawyer for the massively wealthy conglomerate’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity.)

If Brownback goes the way of his poll numbers in November, he will have left a lasting impact on Kansas government with Stegall’s appointment that may live long past his tax-cut experiment. (Stegall is in his early 40s.)

“His strong legal background, temperament and dedication to justice will serve the citizens of Kansas well for many years to come,” Brownback said in a statement. “Selecting justices is one of the most important constitutional duties of a governor, and I am honored to select Caleb Stegall.”

Others saw it differently.

“Governor Brownback’s selection of Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Supreme Court is the last gasp of a failed governor who knows his time in office is coming to an end, “ said Ryan Wright, executive director of the Kansas Values Institute. “Brownback recently told reporters that there would be no ‘favoritism’ in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice, but he has clearly chosen the least qualified, least experienced nominee of the three that were offered.”

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