Juneau, Alaska (AP) – Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy asked the council, which reviews and nominates judicial candidates, Thursday about a new list of candidates for a vacancy on the state’s Supreme Court. He asked why a judge urged by his recently appointed council was not a finalist.
The finalists proposed by the Alaska Judicial Council last month were Anchorage Superior Court Justices Dani Crosby, Jennifer Stuart Henderson and Yvonne Lamoureux. In a May 25 press release, the council said Dunleavy had 45 days to choose between them.
According to its statutes, the council “reconsiders” names submitted to the governor after nominees have been submitted “unless the obstruction, death, resignation or unavailability due to the appointment of one or more office” leaves the governor with less than two names.
Jeff Turner, a spokesman for Dunleavy, said via email that Dunleavy “is asking the council to provide the names of all applicants for the open position on the court.” Dunleavy’s letter calls for “a new list of names to choose from” for the seat.
It is not clear what happens if an appointment is not made within the 45 day window. Susanne DiPietro, the council’s executive director, said in the past via email, “Governors always ended up making appointments among the council’s original nominees.”
It found that Dunleavy had nominated a council candidate for Superior Court judge in 2019, but after the deadline. Dunleavy had raised questions about the selection process at the time, but took the seat after a meeting with then Supreme Court Joel Bolger, who he said had “provided important procedural clarifications”.
The group that wanted to remove Dunleavy cited failure to schedule an appointment as one of the reasons for his removal.
Dunleavy told reporters Thursday, “We will obey the Constitution and we will obey the law.”
Dunleavy asked in his letter on Thursday why Kotzebue Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman was “bypassed”. He cited Roetman’s time as a judge and his experience in rural Alaska. Roetman was one of seven applicants for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Bolger.
Dunleavy said he had “heard a number of concerns about the representation of rural Alaska in the judiciary in recent months”.
“People in Alaska, including me, are wondering how someone like Judge Roetman is qualified to sit where he is, but can’t bring his name to the Alaska Supreme Court for review?” Dunleavy wrote.
Kristie Babcock, a Dunleavy appointee for the council, said in an opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News in May that Bolger killed Roetman’s nomination as a key vote on the matter.
She also complained about the selection process.
The council has three public members and three members who are lawyers. The Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court presides over the council and “only votes when necessary,” it says on its website. The selection process is performance-oriented, they say.
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