TOPEKA — The Supreme Court Nominating Commission today sent names of three candidates for Supreme Court justice to Gov. Sam Brownback, who has 60 days to decide who will fill the vacancy created by the July 28 departure of Justice Nancy Moritz to serve on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The three candidates are all judges. Karen Arnold-Burger and Caleb Stegall are both with the Court of Appeals and Merlin G. Wheeler, who is chief judge of the 5th judicial district.
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 assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas from 1989 to 1991, and assistant city attorney and then first assistant city attorney for the City of Overland Park between 1982 and 1989. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas and the University of Kansas School of Law.
Stegall has been a Kansas Court of Appeals judge since January 2014. Before becoming a judge, he was chief counsel to Gov. Sam Brownback from 2011 to 2014, Jefferson County attorney from 2009 to 2011, and in private practice with Stegall & Associates, PA, from 2005 to 2011. He was an associate attorney with Foulston Siefkin LLP in 2000 and again from 2001 to 2005. He was a law clerk to Judge Deanell R. Tacha, former chief judge of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, from 2000 to 2001. He is a graduate of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the University of Kansas School of Law.
Wheeler has been a judge in the 5th judicial district since 1990 and chief judge of the district since 1997. The 5th judicial district includes Lyon and Chase counties. Before he became judge, he was in private practice at Merlin G. Wheeler, Chtd., from 1988 to 1990. He was with the firm Perkins, Hollembeak & Wheeler, Chtd., from 1982 to 1988, and with Perkins and Hollembeak from 1980 to 1982. He was city attorney for the City of Emporia from 1977 to 1980. He is a graduate of Dodge City Community College, Emporia State University and Washburn University School of Law.
The commission interviewed 13 applicants Aug. 4 and 5 in the Fatzer Courtroom in the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. A fourteenth candidate withdrew her application before the interviews took place.
All interviews were open to the public under Supreme Court Nominating Commission guidelines adopted in January 2011.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is an independent body created by the Kansas Constitution. Four of its members are appointed by the governor from each of the state’s four congressional districts. These appointees are not attorneys. Four other members are attorneys selected by attorneys in each of the state’s congressional districts. The commission chair is an attorney elected by attorneys in a statewide vote.
Commission members are: Anne E. Burke, Chair, Overland Park; David J. Rebein, Dodge City; Linda B. Weis, Manhattan; Natalie G. Haag, Topeka; Felita R. Kahrs, Topeka; Matthew D. Keenan, Leawood; Robert Hayworth, Shawnee Mission; Jay F. Fowler, Wichita; and Gary T. Mason, Maize.