Four lawyers nominated for Alaska Supreme Court

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The Alaska Judicial Council has forwarded to Gov. Mike Dunleavy its four nominees for the vacancy coming up on the Alaska Supreme Court with the retirement of Chief Justice Daniel Winfree.

The lawyers selected by the council after an application and interview the previous day were Anchorage Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby, Department of Law attorney Kate Demarest, Fairbanks attorney Aimee Oravec, or Sitka Superior Court Judge Jude Pate.

Gov. Dunleavy has 45 days to choose one of them. By Alaska Constitution, he has no authority other than to choose one of the names the council advances.

The council did not advance Kotzebue Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman, Department of Law Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh, or Holly Wells, an Anchorage attorney in private practice.

Conservative Roetman would have been the only Hispanic and Arctic rural member of the Supreme Court, and for the second time he has been denied the Supreme Court position.

Paton-Walsh, who often must argue cases in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of the State, has also applied previously for a Supreme Court vacancy.

The council voted for:

Dani Crosby: An Alaska resident for more than 36 years who has practiced law for more than 26 years, she graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1996 and is a Superior Court judge in Anchorage.

Kate Demarest: An Alaska resident for over 12 years who has practiced law for 14 years, she graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2008 and is a senior assistant attorney general in the Opinions, Appeals, and Ethics section at the Department of Law in Anchorage.

Aimee A. Oravec: An Alaska resident for over 23 years who has practiced law for 24 years, she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law in 1998 and is currently general counsel for Doyon Utilities, LLC.

Jude Pate: An Alaska resident for over 29 years, he has practiced law for more than 28 years. Pate graduated from Lewis and Clark Northwestern School of Law in 1993 and is a superior court judge in Sitka.

The council voted unanimously for Oravec and Crosby. Pate and Demarest were advanced with a 5-1 vote, with member Kristie Babcock voting no on Demarest and member Geraldine Simon voting no on Pate.

The Alaska Judicial Council is a commission created by the Alaska Constitution composed of three Alaska Bar Association attorneys, three non-attomeys, and the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

The council completes an investigation and evaluation of judicial applicants, reviewing each applicant’s education, experience, bar discipline, and credit records, participation in community activities, and other records.

It asks members of the Alaska Bar Association cartel to evaluate the applicants, and encourages the public to submit comments, and interviews the applicants.

39 COMMENTS

    • Nope. Not at all. It could be better, but at least we don’t have elected judges here.

      You absolutely, positively, under no circumstances want elected judges or judges subject to political winds here. I wouldn’t be surprised if we followed the federal model we’d still be saddled with “Walker appointees.”

      I spent years working courtrooms, I’m former LEO, and I’m considered “far-right.”

      However, I will say that in all the courtrooms I’ve been in, for all their faults and foibles, Alaska judges stay more in tune with their oaths and the constitution than anywhere else in these United States.

      Yeah, there are some freaks, but their decisions are generally sound.

      • Repeal, I like the idea of repealing the 17th, it seems like the ultimate term limit tool in order to provide accountability to the “STATE” who Senators are to represent and not a Parliament of Whores as we have now.
        I think you will find that the 17th came along about the same time as a private owned central bank came into being, coincidence?

  1. So he can choose between left, further left, really left, or unbelievably left.

    We could have fixed this, Alaska. But you were too scared to support a Constitutional Convention. This is on us.

    • I voted yes for convention, but I would have vigorously opposed changing this system. Yes, I’m also a “far-right” conservstive.

      It is one of the few things Alaska does better than everyone else in the nation. I mean Everyone.

      Like them or not, and who cares what kind of underwear they put on, Alaska judges do a great job of following both the Alaska and Federal constitutions. They don’t have political overlords they owe anything to.

      I’ve been in courtrooms across the nation, been in Federal courtrooms, and a career in Alaska courtrooms. Have you?

      • Repeal: I might be persuaded to support this system with a modification to ensure that the general public and not the bar has the majority of votes to choose Judicial nominees.

    • Have you ever been part of the review process of sitting judges? I have. It’s not that simple.

      Also, the board that selects candidates is not strictly attorney.

      I may not like many judges and I spent a career dealing with them. I have to admit our judges respect the constitution and their oaths better than any other judges in the nation.

  2. Roetman snubbed again. You’ll never get a constitutionalist on the AKSC unless we have a convention and we will never get one, so what’s the point? The legislature is corrupt and feckless, but even if they would work with the gov, the judiciary is completely partisan leftist. Alaska isn’t purple-scratch it and you’ll see; it’s DEEP BLUE.

    • Here’s the deal. If he has a history of being overturned on appeal, he’s probably out right there. NQ.

      That is a primary measure: does he follow precedent and make sound decisions.

      If he has a history of making decisions that get yanked on appeal, he’ll never go Supreme.

      Regardless of politics.

      Imagine your neighborhood mechanic. Great guy, friendly, is a fan of the right football team and even washes your car after he fixes it…but he’s not a good mechanic if your car breaks down on the way home.

  3. And no reasons are given for why the other applicants were not moved forward. Of course the only conservative was nixed.

    “The council completes an investigation and evaluation of judicial applicants, reviewing each applicant’s education, experience, bar discipline, and credit records, participation in community activities, and other records.”

    Seems political affiliation and ideology should also be listed as it appears they are also very important criteria to this council.

    • First off, the world of attorneys and judges in Alaska is pretty small. Pretty much everyone knows everyone.

      I spent a career in Alaska courtrooms. I’ve seen “conservative” and “liberal” judges but I haven’t seen one yet that didn’t follow the constitution.

      • As a court reporter do you know the Constitution? It doesn’t take an attorney to know the Constitution, but it does take an attorney to know case law and presidents or at least the ability to know where to research.

      • Oh really? Well I haven’t been in the courthouse much at all but while I was in the Kenai courthouse one day in the late July early Aug ‘2022’ timeframe I witnessed Judge Wells dismissing a group of grand jurors who had just voted in their chamber to allow a witness to testify of crimes by Wells and other State officials. Thereby a felony violation of Article I Section 8 of our State Constitution which states that ‘the rights of GJ’s to investigate and shall never be suspended’. And backed by Ak Statutes 12.40.040 and 12.40.030. This violation is/was a class C and class B felony for both jury tampering and obstruction of justice. Judge Wells knows she’s in deep do do. You think that’s why she announced her retirement?

      • Repeal, that is a flat-out lie. We have had a number of prominent and obvious cases in Alaska, just in the last decade, of judges who flagrantly violated the state constitution. Example #1 was the egregious unconstitutionality of 2020s Proposition 2, which bunched several different and unrelated proposals together, in blatant violation of our state constitution. But since those measures, if passed, favored the radical left (as they have in fact done), it was approved by the leftist judge who ruled it OK.
        .
        I find your pro-establishment trolling on this matter here unconvincing, and smacking of disinformation.

  4. He cannot be compelled to pick. Why not simply “sit” on the decision until they reconvene and send him Republican choices? We regularly sit on budget decisions in this way to get more favorable deals.

    • He tried a version of that acfak. He asked for other names. It ended up with a recall petition against him. He really has no choice. – sd

  5. Huh…other states allow the Governor to make these appointments and then the Legislature approves them.

    Alaska is really backwards…and I thought California was insane.

    • Learn some history; this was thought to be a solution to the corruption thought to be inherent in both election and gubernatorial appointment of judges. I think it is actually a workable system if the Bar didn’t have a guaranteed majority. I don’t think the Chief Justice has any business on the Council and should be replaced by a public member; then the gubernatorial appointees to the Council have a guaranteed majority, at least after a couple of years as terms turn over.

    • Couldn’t disagree with you more.

      That’s all well and good if we had a system like that, right? Never mind we had a Gov. Bill Walker at one time, and a Knowles…we’d still be dealing with that if we had your system.

      I’ve been in courtrooms all over, state and Federal. Regardless of their politics, liberal, conservative, fruitcake or space alien, Alaska judges do a great job of following the constitution.

      Our judges have NO political masters and do not have to please the whims of the public. When they have trouble making a decision, they look up prior decisions, when they have a real tough time, they read the constitution.

      • Repeal, you are simply lying here.
        .
        “Our judges have NO political masters”.
        .
        In the most narrow and literal of senses, perhaps not. But in REALITY, most of them have an obvious political bias and agenda, which in almost every case recently leans hard left.
        .
        Stop pissing down our backs and calling it rain.

  6. Paul Roetman is a great man born and raised in Alaska and is beyond a fair judge. Its heartbreaking that he has been looked over again

  7. I recommend that the Governor appoint Aimee Oravec. She is smart, rational and has real-world experience. I cannot attest to her social perspective but she has the potential to make sound decisions.

    • That is a primary gradient. Sound decisions and follow precedent.

      Alaska judges do a great job of staying above politics in their job.

      • Actually, I have some doubt about your last statement. A great many of our judges come from the same social circles and have too-similar backgrounds to resist demands for judicial activism. Ms. Oravec is a bit different.

  8. Where is the check on the Alaska Judicial Council? How is it held accountable? Can the citizens vote them out? Can they be impeached? Who selects its members?

    • The council is appointed by the bar association and private persons are selected by the Governor, if I remember correctly. They also seek and welcome public input on candidates.

      • “They also seek and welcome public input on candidates.”
        .
        Translation of this disingenuous disinformation: They also grudgingly tolerate a token input from the public, before making the rubber-stamp decisions that they would have made regardless of that public input.

  9. This is one of the saddest times when the Judicial Council leaves two outstanding people off the list. To all those who demand “equity” leaving the eminently qualified Judge Roetman (Hispanic) and the attorney that argues before the Supreme Court for the State of Alaska off the list is just too disheartening to even comment on. Sadly, it is politics as usual in which the governor has no choice but will get all the blame.

  10. The AJC’s failure to nominate the conservative Roetman should be investigated by a grand jury. I already have a pending request into a Juneau grand jury to investigate the politics behind AJC’s nominations and the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional Rule 6.1 that suppresses grand jury reports. Expanding their investigation into Roetman’s omission would be a natural fit!

    The grand jury can use their subpoena power to obtain communications of ABA and AJC personnel, and force them to explain their actions. They can call as witnesses the many conservative attorneys around the state that don’t bother to apply for judicial positions because they know the system is so rigged. The grand jury’s secrecy will allow clerks, attorneys, and judges who have been paralyzed by fear of repercussions to finally step forward.

    As the finder of fact, the grand jury can prove the AJC is a politically controlled cartel and recommend that the Governor, Legislature, and people work together to put an end to this nonsense. Suzanne, to your point, their report would give Dunleavy more than sufficient political cover to topple the house of cards that ignores and rewrites our Constitution at its whim and pleasure.

    Alaska already has a constitutional crisis by the Supreme Court’s own doing. Their unconstitutional Order 1993, effective December 1, halted a grand jury investigation into the out of control OCS and their “legal kidnapping” of Alaskan children. Order 1993 was just the latest in a long line of Court decisions defying our Constitution. If Dunleavy once again refuses to select another political minion, he can help draw the Court’s lawlessness out into the open and gain support for a Constitutional Amendment in how we select our judiciary.

    The Supreme Court will undoubtedly try to unconstitutionally suppress the grand jury’s report as they did in the Bartlett High teacher sex scandal back in 1990. But a resourceful grand jury will find a way to get the truth of the Court’s corruption out. It’s the grand jury’s constitutionally protected power to do so.

    Another bright spot? Eventually we’ll get our full PFD checks back.

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