Four Finalists Recommended for Alaska Supreme Court

The Juneau Empire reports that the Alaska Judicial Council has recommended four finalists for the vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Gov. Bill Walker has 45 days to make a final decision about which of the recommended candidates will replace Dana Fabe, the justice who announced her retirement last year.

“While national headlines have been filled with the controversy surrounding the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the process of filling Alaska’s vacancy has been downright sedate by comparison,” the newspaper reports.

The article goes on to highlight the stresses for applicants going through the vetting process, noting in particular the negative criticism that can be generated through the Judicial Council’s practice of sending anonymized surveys of the candidates to every member of the Alaska Bar Association. However, Alaska’s merit system is ultimately praised for the calm and lack of political drama that it brings to the appointment process.

“On the federal level, that’s a highly politicized process…In Alaska, happily, we have an entirely different process that was created through the brilliance and the foresight of the delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention,” the Empire quotes Alaska Chief Justice Craig Stowers as saying.

Speaking to the newspaper, Julie Willoughby, a Juneau attorney and former member of the Judicial Council, said that Alaska’s system is an “apolitical…comparative merit-based process” and that she believes it “functions as designed and that it’s a fantastically good system.”