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Column Questions Kansas Judicial Selection System

Former Republican Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker and former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Tacha are skeptical about the new judicial selection system that Kansas has adopted.

Under the old system, a nominating commission selected candidates for open Court of Appeals seats. Now, the governor chooses candidates that must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Gov. Sam Brownback has declined to release the names of people interviewed for an open appeals court seat. Kassebaum Baker and Tacha say in a newspaper column that the previous merit system produced good candidates and the state needs an appointment process that’s transparent.

But they also say the governor’s choice of his top attorney, Caleb Stegall, is worthy of consideration. In fact, Tacha has endorsed Stegall for the post.

Gov. Brownback has pointed out that the names of all candidates for federal judicial positions aren’t released. He has said the new system has more accountability, because elected officials choose and confirm the nominee, instead of a nominating commission headed by attorneys.