TOPEKA — Budget constraints and the need to remodel office space will keep newly confirmed Kansas Court of Appeals appointee Caleb Stegall from taking his seat for another three months, state officials said Wednesday.
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Thomas Malone announced Wednesday that Stegall will be sworn in Jan. 3 during a ceremony to be webcast live from the Kansas Supreme Court chamber in Topeka.
Stegall’s nomination by Gov. Sam Brownback received an unusual amount of attention, partly because Stegall is the governor’s chief counsel.
It was also the first Court of Appeals appointment under a new law that took effect in July that has the governor appoint the judges, subject to Senate confirmation. Previously, an attorney-led commission screened applicants and named three finalists, with no role for lawmakers after the governor’s appointment.
Stegall is filling a new, 14th seat on the state’s second-highest court. The total annual cost of the new judge’s office – which will include an assistant and two research attorneys – is expected to be $420,000.
When lawmakers finished their annual session in June, they and court officials didn’t anticipate the new judge’s confirmation by the Senate until January, and they budgeted that way. But the Legislature had a special session last week to repair a murder sentencing law, and senators were legally obligated to consider Stegall’s appointment then.
“We had no idea there would be a special session,” said Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the state court system.
Keefover said the judicial branch also must remodel several small, vacant offices at the Kansas Judicial Center near the Statehouse to create a new Court of Appeals judge’s suite.
The renovated space won’t be available until January.
“We knew this was going to happen,” Brownback spokeswoman Sara Belfry said of the delay.