Brownback court appointee faces confirmation hearing
Topeka Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's latest Court of Appeals appointee, who faces her first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, lectured and studied at the conservative law group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Kathryn Gardner, who submitted hundreds of documents to the Senate detailing her past experience, disclosed that she gave presentations at the alliance's seminars 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.
She has served as the law clerk for U.S. District Judge Sam Crow since 2000 after working for 12 years as a practicing lawyer in Wichita and two years as an assistant state attorney general. Reached by phone, Gardner said she would not be commenting to the media ahead of the hearing.
The Alliance Defending Freedom did not respond to a request 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.
Gardner also listed being a member of the Christian Legal Society, which says on its website that it encourages Christian lawyers "to proclaim, love and serve Jesus Christ through the study and practice of law."
As a lawyer, Gardner won a case before the Kansas Supreme Court in 1996 that ruled that lay midwives could not be required to obtain nursing licenses.
She said in her application that she feels her law clerk experience is more applicable to the job of an appellate judge than her time as a private practice lawyer.
However, in a presentation to the Alliance Defending Freedom on the role of a law clerk, she described the job as being "servantlike" and "at the bottom of the totem pole."
"Law clerks have no statutorily defined duties. Your job is to do whatever your judge says you will do," Gardner said in the presentation.
The presentation also states that law clerks are used almost exclusively by judges to research, draft and edit opinions, adding that in terms of the intimacy and confidentiality, the judge-clerk relationship "is as sacred as that of priest-penitent." It is not clear whether she gave the same presentation at each of the four seminars between 2000 and 2003, or just once.
According to the documents Gardner submitted, 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."
Brownback said in a statement that Gardner "brings tremendous qualities to the Court of Appeals."
"She is a gifted individual and accomplished attorney who is deeply committed to serving her community and the State," Brownback said. "I am pleased to appoint her and look forward to the Senate's review and confirmation."