The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct holds its quarterly meeting on Jan. 6 at 9:30 am. The meeting will deal with administrative matters in open session, and a closed session to follow that relates to cases that have been reviewed and need executive privileged discussion.
The meeting will be held at the commission’s office in Anchorage with public participation allowed via Zoom (information below). The agenda appears unremarkable but there may be issues arising from the September meeting of the commission, which handles complaints against state judges. In the past, controversies rose when the Alaska Supreme Court issued a stunning letter essentially declaring the Alaska judicial system racist.
According to minutes from the September meeting, only one complaint needed investigating after the meeting. The commission’s Executive Director Marla Greenstein reported a total of 65 complaints since the April meeting, 48 of which were given to judges, 3 to magistrates, 2 to fully retired judges, 5 to pro tem judges, 1 to a lawyer, 1 to a law clerk, 3 to court administrators, and 2 to judicial applicants.
“The issues generally surrounded disqualification and disclosure issues, pay affidavit questions, political donations by family members, charitable contributions, and writing reference letters,” the minutes say.
The commission generally deals with matters relating to judge misconduct, which has has a specific meaning under the Code of Judicial Conduct that governs the activities of judges both on and off the bench.
Judicial misconduct can be divided into several categories, including improper courtroom behavior, (including racist or sexist comments by a judge, sleeping or drunkenness on the bench. Judges can also be disciplined for administrative failures such as taking an excessive amount of time to make a decision); improper or illegal influence (could include bribes, loans, favors, or family, social, or political relationships to influence any judicial decision); impropriety off the bench (misappropriation or misuse of public employees, property or funds; improper speech or associations; interference with a pending or impending lawsuit; lewd or corrupt personal life; or use of the judicial position to extort or embezzle funds); and other improper activities.
The commission can also address mental deficiencies, addictions, and physical disabilities related to being able to do the job.
Public session typically addresses the commission’s budget, educational activities, advisory opinions, and general administrative issues. Public session does not address specific complaints against judges.
The meeting will be open to members of the public to attend via Zoom either telephonically or through the Zoom website or app. Upon calling in, the Zoom system will request you give your name before allowing you into the meeting. Your name will then be assigned to your phone number so that the Commission members will be aware of who has joined. The host will move you from the Waiting Room into the meeting once it has begun and all visitors will be on mute. In lieu of any technical difficulties, allow a few minutes lee-way to be admitted and for the meeting to start.
Closed Session addresses confidential complaints filed with the commission and is not open to the general public.
Any member of the public wishing to speak at the meeting had to have registered by Jan. 4.
Zoom Call-In Number: 1-971-247-1195
Participant ID: #
Zoom Meeting ID: 883 1171 0155