By Les Gara
For The Cordova Times
The retention of Alaska’s justices and judges often gets little attention. This year partisans are sadly attacking two bright women for following the law and for properly refusing to use their personal religious or political views against people who find themselves in court seeking fairness and justice. People are entitled to have their cases decided fairly, not by political judges predisposed towards one side or the other.
I know Alaska Supreme Court Justice Sue Carney and Kenai Superior Court Judge Jen Wells, and know they take their oaths to be fair and follow the law seriously. Both justices work hard, are bright, are honest, and are known for leaving their personal views at the courthouse door. They have served with honor and earned their positions regardless of their gender. Justice Carney and Judge Wells deserve a Yesvote on retention. That’s the recommendation of Alaska’s non-partisan Judicial Council.
The Alaska Judicial Council, after reviewing surveys on whether judges do their jobs fairly from those who practice before or work with the court system, has recommended retention of both. Though not always the case, the council has recommended retention of each of the Alaska judges up for a vote this year.
Though I don’t know the others as well, including Judge Dani Crosby, who is also being targeted by a partisan group, I see no fair reason to disagree with the council’s retention recommendations this year. You can read the reviews on all judges up for retention on the Judicial Council website, and read their report on those up for retention on the ballot here. Alaska’s citizen process for selecting judges, based on merit instead of politics, is a model for the country, and highlighted by those in other states that appoint partisans as judges.
Justice Carney and Judge Wells are role models for young women in a court system that needs gender equity. They are too non-partisan to fight back with big money for themselves against the negative campaigns against them. So, you may hear misleading attack ads, but you won’t hear them mounting big money campaigns for their own benefit. I see no reason to disagree with the council this year.
Under Alaska’s Constitution, judges and justices take an oath to follow laws as written, fairly interpret laws when the legislature writes them vaguely, and rule on a party’s constitutional challenges to laws. If you and I don’t like a law or what’s in the Constitution, we get to complain and try to change them. Justices and judges are required to uphold both what’s in the constitution and laws that are constitutional, whether or not they personally agree with those laws or a constitutional provision.
Les Gara served in the Alaska Legislature from 2003-2019 and has been freelance writing and working on children’s issues since then. He’s lived in Alaska since 1988 with his wife Kelly.