Alaska governor refuses to follow state’s judicial nominating procedures

Alaska’s constitution, like that of many western states, embraces a merit selection process for judges. An independent nominating commission (here, the Alaska Judicial Council) reviews the applications of judicial aspirants and selects a slate of names, which it forwards to the governor, who in turn must choose a candidate from the slate. The system has operated without incident for sixty years … until now.

Governor Mike Dunleavy, provided with a slate of nominees for the Palmer Superior Court, has refused to name anyone to the open seat on the court. The governor’s reasoning appears to be that there were other qualified candidates who “inexplicably” (in his view) were not included among the nominating committee’s choices.

The governor has 45 days under state law to choose from among the candidates provided by the commission. Forty-five days have now passed, and no one is sure what will happen next. The state’s chief justice has defended the sanctity of the current nominating process.

The governor seems to be plainly in the wrong here. Merit selection systems deliberately divide the power of judicial appointments among multiple actors to reduce the risks of patronage and political partisanship. The governor does not appear to argue that the candidates provided by the commission were unacceptable, only that there are others he would prefer. That is not his prerogative. He should fill the seats with a qualified nominee provided by the commission, and give the state courts the judicial staffing they deserve.


One thought on “Alaska governor refuses to follow state’s judicial nominating procedures”

  1. Interesting , very important , and so typical. Just worth to note, that according to the related articles, there were problems of such in the past, here :

    ” Twice in the past 30 years, governors have created showdowns with the judicial council, but each time, the governor has been the one to back down. In 1993, then-Gov. Wally Hickel said he was unhappy with his options for an Anchorage Superior Court judgeship. Hickel’s spokesman said at the time that he believed the governor thought the potential judges were “too liberal.” Hickel ended up picking Larry Card, the first black judge in state history, before the 45-day time limit expired. ”

    But that’s the point ( as been mentioned in the post indeed ) to avoid political bias, by qualified and professional nominations. And who would do that ?? The governor ? he has no clue even, concerning qualification of such needed ?? How shall he do that otherwise ? He must rely on the list selected by the judicial council, and approve it. Unless something is prima facie, on the face of it, wrong and unreasonable.

    So typical. That practice must be stopped. Only judges of the Supreme court, should appoint judges for lower courts. That’s it!



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