Fritz Pettyjohn: 40 years of judicial activism on the Alaska Supreme Court, but Dunleavy can just say ‘no’



Forty years ago I was in my political prime. I was a 37-year-old lawyer with a beautiful wife and three fine looking little boys. For services rendered in his 1978 reelection campaign, Gov. Jay Hammond had designed a seat in the State Senate especially for me, and I was ready to start my legislative career.

I had come back to Alaska in 1974 after law school with the intention of taking out Democratic U. S. Sen. Mike Gravel, a liberal and a whack job. But Frank Murkowski beat me to it, so now I had my sights on liberal Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. I couldn’t run against Congressman Don Young because Don was a good conservative and there would be no point to it.

I made no secret of my intentions, and I had my political game plan all worked out. In 1980, was chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska.  In 1990, I would run in the Republican Senate primary hard to Stevens’ right, and attack his liberalism as being out of touch with the majority of Alaska’s Reagan Republicans.

A few months after I was sworn in to the State Senate, Justice Jay Rabinowitz handed down his opinion in Carpenter v. Hammond, 667 P. 2d 1204.  It threw out Hammond’s 1980 reapportionment, and gave Democratic Gov. Bill Sheffield a free rein in reapportioning the whole state.  Sheffield hated my guts, so my career in the State Senate would end in 1984.

To this day legal scholars have a hard time figuring out Carpenter v. Hammond. Legally, it’s nonsensical. But it wasn’t really a legal opinion.  It was purely political.

My political momentum was stopped cold. I was never able to regain it, and I never ran against Ted Stevens.

For 40 years, Alaska’s Supreme Court has been faithfully fulfilling the Rabinowitz legacy of left-wing political activism and judicial imperialism. Republican Governors have attempted to appoint conservatives, but have been stymied by the lawyer-dominated Alaska Judicial Council, which refuses to nominate them. 

They’re trying it again right now, giving Gov. Mike Dunleavy a list of exclusively leftist activist nominees, all in the mold of Jay Rabinowitz.

But this year there’s a difference. Dunleavy is the first two-term Republican governor in 44 years, so he doesn’t have to worry about reelection. The leftist lawyers and media can hold their breath, roll on the floor, and turn purple, but he doesn’t have to pay any attention.  It’s an historic opportunity, which let’s hope he takes advantage of. 

He doesn’t have to appoint any of these people. He can just say no.

Fritz Pettyjohn served in the Alaska Legislature in the 1980s and writes the blog


  1. He will have to wait for a few other Governors to do it first. Then put his toes in the water to check the temperature and make sure he has a good wind to his back. Oh wait, he’s all alone on this one. Nope, nothing is going to happen.

  2. I don’t think it’s the Governor without the spine. He was in favor of the Constitutional Convention to remedy these degradations of constitutional options belonging to the Alaska governor. Alaskan people were the ones who demurred. Remember?

  3. You all might be surprised at Dunleavy during his second term. Maybe he’s ready for that fight.
    Fritz, I seem to remember you being back in the Legislature in 1985. Weren’t you in the House? You were a pal of Robin Taylor’s back in those days. Robin was a judge from SE who went into politics…..and the State House too. Maybe you both had your legislative offices over in the Judicial Building, across the street from the Capitol? I was never a fan of Robin Taylor. He helped louse up the election of John Lindauer, who would have beat Tony Knowles in 1998 if not for the relentless media hit job against him. It reminded me of the way Joe Miller was treated in 2010.

  4. Remember that Governor Dunleavy asked for a second list of names in 2019 and was almost re-called for that and trying to balance the budget. Where were all of you who are accusing him of no spine then? Not a peep out of you. No support at all. When he wanted Alaskans to call their reps and senators to support the constitutional initiatives to give the people the power to vote on their own taxes, put the PFD in the Constitution, and put a cap on government spending, where were all of you meat eating fighters? No where to be found. Dead silence. So before you complain about the governor, ask yourself what you would do with no support. Finally, how much hoopla have any of you raised to have the justice appointment system changed? The silence is deafening.

  5. I’ve been saying the same thing for most of the past year now: Dunleavy should just refuse to accept ANY of the radical leftist Judicial Council’s small handful of equally radically left choices, and let them rot. This entire judicial council pre-selection process is entirely corrupt and rotten to the core, and needs to be abolished and reformed.

  6. Prayer and words are powerful! Thank you Fritz for putting the strength in words. Now it is our turn, as conservative Alaskans to grow a spine and put strength in our words and not just expect it from our governor who needs us to have his back.


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