Republican-led Senate rejects Democrat Kelly’s court nominee
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has rejected Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest nominee for the state Court of Appeals.
The Republican-led Senate on Wednesday rejected Democrat Kelly’s nomination of Carl Folsom III, a longtime state and federal public defender, largely because he represented a man covicted of possessing child pornography, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Kelly called it “political games.”
It’s the second appeals court nominee of Kelly’s to be rejected. She became the first governor ever to have a nominee for the court rejected in May 2019 when Labette County District Judge Jeffry Jack failed to secure a seat on the court after questionable social media posts were unearthed.
Folsom has worked as a lawyer in the Kansas Appellate Defender’s Office, which argues cases before the Courts of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.
“His focus has been very narrow, he’s been a public defender,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican who led the opposition to Folsom’s nomination on the Judiciary Committee.
Baumgardner criticized Folsom for arguing a federal court appeal in 2014 seeking reduction of sentence for an Oklahoma client convicted of possessing child pornography. FBI investigators found more than 20,000 images of girls 5 to 15 on the client’s computer, Baumgardner said.
Democratic Sen. Vic Miller, a former municipal judge from Topeka, challenged Baumgardner, noting that public defenders don’t choose their clients.
Miller said Folsom is bound by oath and the Constitution to do his best to represent clients and ensure that they all get a fair trial.
“He is not the client and he possesses none of transgressions of those he might happen to represent,” Miller said. “It is his job.”
The vote for Folsom was 18-17. It takes 21 votes to approve a nomination.
Kelly criticized the Senate and praised Folsom’s experience.
“Even some people in the Court of Appeals would say ‘He’s got more experience than me,’” Kelly said. “To let him become the collateral damage for political games is absolutely wrong. The Legislature needs to think long and hard about what they just did.”
After the vote, Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, sent a news release that called Folsom an activist.
“The nominee donated to Governor Kelly’s campaign, which is indicative of his political ideology,” Wagle said in the release.
Wagle also called Kelly’s complaints about the rejection hypocritical because the governor voted against Caleb Stegall for the Court of Appeals in 2013, when he was confirmed to the court on a party-line vote. Stegall, who is now on the state Supreme Court, was Republican former Gov. Sam Brownback’s general counsel when Brownback nominated him for the appeals court.
In Jack’s case last year, Kelly herself had urged senators to vote against Jack after trying to withdraw his nomination, only four days after submitting it to them for potential confirmation.
Jack’s nomination was doomed after political posts on his Twitter feed from 2017 came to light. They included tweets containing vulgar language and criticism of President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Jack has said they represented personal opinions that do not affect his work on the bench. Jack retired from the bench in January.