- Associated Press - Thursday, January 29, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A longtime legal adviser to a senior federal judge who also writes cowboy poetry was nominated Thursday for the Kansas Court of Appeals by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback introduced Kathryn Gardner, of Topeka, as his choice for the state’s second-highest court during a brief Statehouse news conference. Her appointment is subject to Kansas Senate confirmation, and she would replace former Judge Caleb Stegall, elevated last year by Brownback to the state Supreme Court.

The Republican governor cited Gardner’s experiences as Senior U.S. District Judge Sam Crow’s law clerk, as an assistant attorney general and as a lawyer in private practice, calling her thoughtful and intelligent.

But Brownback - who once designated an official Cowboy Poetry Week in Kansas - also pointed to Gardner’s involvement with the art form. Brownback’s office said Gardner has been a finalist in statewide cowboy poetry contests three times in the past four years.

“That sealed the deal for me,” Brownback said, calling Gardner “a renaissance woman.”

The Court of Appeals has 14 judges, and Gardner would be Brownback’s fourth appointee. Nine judges were appointed by Democratic governors and one by GOP Gov. Mike Hayden in 1990.

Gardner has been Crow’s law clerk since 2000 and was an attorney in private practice with a Wichita law firm for 12 years before that. She also was briefly an assistant attorney general in the office’s civil law division and served as a state Court of Appeals research attorney for two years after obtaining her law degree from the University of Kansas in 1983.

Crow and his wife, Ruth, attended Brownback’s news conference, and the judge issued a statement praising Gardner for “keen writing abilities” and a “solid work ethic.”

Gardner said in working for Crow, “I have learned many invaluable lessons about the art of judging.”

Like Stegall, Gardner applied for two openings on the state Court of Appeals in 2012 but was not a finalist for either spot. At the time, a statewide nominating commission led by attorneys screened applicants and named three finalists for the governor, who had to pick one, with no role for legislators.

The GOP-dominated Legislature changed the selection process for the court in 2013, so that the governor makes the appointment directly, subject to Senate confirmation.

Brownback’s office had yet to respond late Thursday to an open-records request from The Associated Press for a copy of each application, letter or email from a person interested in Court of Appeals vacancy. Neither the governor nor Gardner took questions from reporters.

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Online:

Kansas Court of Appeals: https://bit.ly/1vbND72

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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