- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - After a tense hearing a day earlier, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote Thursday on whether to endorse Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s nominee to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Kathryn Gardner faced tough questions Wednesday from Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff King, a Republican from Independence who questioned Gardner’s qualifications. Gardner has served as the law clerk for U.S. District Judge Sam Crow since 2000 after spending 12 years as a practicing lawyer in Wichita and two years as an assistant state attorney general.

King compared Gardner’s background to that of presidential counsel Harriet Miers, whose 2005 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was eventually withdrawn after critics claimed she lacked experience and was too close to President George W. Bush. King said that Gardner was similar to Miers in that her own experience and writings did not leave a “paper trail” from which lawmakers could discern her legal philosophy or stance on controversial issues.

Gardner said that she has not clearly stated her opinions on specific legal issues because law clerks are discouraged from doing so.

According to the documents Gardner submitted to the Senate along with her application, she primarily litigated and authored law papers on contract and employment disputes through her career. But she also presented work on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which made it easier for people to opt out of government regulations on religious grounds, and the legalities of homeschooling children, which she wrote in 2001 was “once the backbone of education in this country.”

In the 2001 paper, she wrote that homeschooled students should have access to sports and other extracurricular activities in public schools, but that “the community is the loser” in lawsuits seeking to grant homeschooled students such access because of the great cost to both sides. The Senate passed a bill in February that would force public schools to accept homeschooled students on sports teams. The bill has now moved to the House.

Gardner also disclosed that she both taught and studied at seminars organized by the conservative law group Alliance Defending Freedom. She presented at the alliance’s events four times from 2000 to 2003 and counted five hours of training on “neo-discrimination” by the organization toward her 12 required hours of continuing legal education courses in 2009.

The Alliance Defending Freedom did not respond to requests for comment, but the group’s website describes it as “an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.” The site says the group advocates and litigates against “radical anti-Christian groups,” spreading what it calls the “myth” of the separation of church and state.

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