Stephen R. McAllister, the U.S. attorney for Kansas, is backing federal public defender Carl Folsom III for a seat on the state’s appellate court.
McAllister, the state’s top federal prosecutor, has written a letter on Folsom’s behalf ahead of Thursday’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
McAllister, whose office has prosecuted clients whom Folsom defended, praised the nominee as having the “substantial” and “appropriate” experience to serve as a judge.
“Having known Carl for over 20 years, I am confident that he will approach judging with humility and modesty, seeking to reach the right answers to legal questions while being fair, considerate and courteous to everyone he encounters,” McAllister wrote.
“He will not be driven by an agenda, nor will he be political as a judge,” he wrote.
McAllister’s endorsement brings conservative support to a judicial candidate nominated by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
McAllister was named U.S. attorney by former President Donald Trump and served as the solicitor general of Kansas under Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and former Justice Byron White.
Whether his support will matter remains to be seen since Folsom is expected to face a tough battle to get confirmed by the state Senate.
Last year, the Senate blocked his confirmation to a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals because some senators thought his career path was too narrowly focused on defense work, while others thought he might be an “activist” judge.
Kelly renominated Folsom to another open seat on the court, and it remains to be seen whether he can be confirmed.
The sheer numbers seem to suggest a tough fight, since six of the senators who voted for him last year didn’t return.
Folsom potentially could lose four of those six votes that went in his favor because two moderate Republicans and two Democrats who supported him last year won’t return this session.
Of the 17 who voted against Folsom, four are not returning to the Senate, including conservative Republican Kevin Braun who will be replaced by a Democrat.
Three other senators who opposed the nomination — Dan Goddard, Julia Lynn and Susan Wagle — have been replaced by new conservatives.
There also were four senators who passed on the vote last year, but three of those were replaced by conservatives and one by a moderate Republican.
While his confirmation is not out of the question, it is believed that Folsom now has between 16 and 18 votes, still short of the 21 needed to be approved.
The confirmation question could largely be settled by many of the new senators who were elected last fall.
In his letter, McAllister specifically addressed the question of Folsom’s work as a defense attorney.
“Our criminal justice system depends on adversarial proceedings where the government is put to the burden of proof and defendants’ constitutional rights are observed and protected,” he wrote.
“Good defense attorneys make it easier to be good prosecutors and help ensure appropriate justice in criminal cases,” he wrote.
“I welcome an appellate bench that includes both former defense attorneys and prosecutors as well as attorneys from private practice and academia,” he wrote.
“Carl Folsom has the substantial and appropriate experience necessary to serve as an excellent appellate judge,” he wrote.
McAllister taught Folsom as an undergraduate and in law school at the University of Kansas.
Based on years of knowing Folsom personally and professionally, McAllister said the nominee would be an “excellent, careful and thoughtful judge.”
Meanwhile, nearly 200 lawyers from across the state have signed onto a letter supporting Folsom.
The letter points to Folsom’s 15 years of experience as criminal defense attorney, noting he had argued before the Court of Appeals more than 40 times and more than 20 times before the Kansas Supreme Court.
“Mr. Folsom is a public servant, and he is committed to serving Kansas,” the letter states.
“Mr. Folsom has the necessary temperament to consider cases fairly and impartially. He has shown compassion and a commitment to equal justice under the law and he will serve all Kansans on the Court of Appeals.”