Politics & Government

Trump appoints former KU dean as U.S. attorney

Stephen McAllister, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney, speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club in 2016.
Stephen McAllister, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney, speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club in 2016. The Wichita Eagle

President Trump has tapped Kansas Solicitor General Stephen McAllister to serve as U.S. attorney for Kansas, officials said Friday.

McAllister has been the point man for the state’s defense in the ongoing school finance litigation before the Kansas Supreme Court and is a former dean of the University of Kansas Law School.

McAllister will have to go before the Senate for confirmation, where he’ll enjoy strong support from both of Kansas’ senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.

“He (McAllister) has extensive legal experience in state and federal courts, including arguing nine cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, where he once served as a clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas,” Roberts said in a statement.

“In addition, Steve’s administrative experience as dean of the University of Kansas Law School, combined with a heavy dose of western Kansas common sense acquired in his hometown of Lucas, will serve him well in the effort to prosecute both criminal and civil cases.”

Added Moran: “Professor McAllister’s bright legal mind and his litigation experience uniquely qualify him for this role.”

McAllister is a professor of law at the University of Kansas and served as dean from 2000 to 2003.

As solicitor general, he works with the state attorney general’s office representing Kansas in high-profile cases, including the lengthy appeals litigation of Scott Cheever, convicted of killing Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels in 2005.

The state Supreme Court overturned Cheever’s conviction in 2012, but was then itself reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state court upheld both the conviction and death sentence last year.

McAllister has also been the primary lawyer representing the state in prolonged school-finance litigation in which four school districts, including Wichita, have sued arguing that the state hasn’t met its constitutional burden to provide adequate funding for education.

The state Supreme Court is currently considering whether changes to the school finance formula passed by the Legislature this year meet that constitutional obligation.

McAllister faced controversy in 2016 when he co-authored a brief in an abortion case that cited the infamous Dred Scott decision as support for the state’s argument.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt quickly apologized for the citation of the pre-Civil War ruling that found that black people whose ancestors had been slaves could not be U.S. citizens.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will succeed acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall as the top federal law enforcement official in the state.

Beall has been serving in the role since 2016 when U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom stepped down after Trump was elected president.

Contributing: Bryan Lowry and Hunter Woodall of the Kansas City Star

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas