By FRITZ PETTYJOHN
In Alaska, lawyers decide who gets to be a judge. They control the Judicial Council and they use that control to prevent any judicial conservative from being considered for appointment by the governor. There are no dissenting voices on the Alaska Supreme Court. The lawyers won’t allow it.
There’s a simple fix: Repeal the clause of the Constitution which gives the Alaska Bar Association the right to name three members of the Judicial Council. This would give the governor the right to name all six public members of the Council, subject to legislative confirmation.
Such a constitutional amendment will never be proposed by the Alaska Legislature, since it requires a two-thirds vote. The lawyers have enough allies in the legislature to prevent that from ever happening. But delegates to a constitutional convention can propose an amendment by majority vote, and would likely do so if voters give them a chance.
In Alaska, parents don’t control the education of their children. The teacher’s union and the education establishment have a monopoly on public funding. Private and religious schools can’t receive any state support, because the Alaska Constitution forbids it. The Legislature won’t propose an amendment to remove this prohibition. Delegates to a convention could do it, with a simple majority vote.
The United States Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow state legislatures to write laws on abortion. But it won’t affect Alaska. In Alaska, the Alaska Supreme Court has taken complete control over the issue of abortion, and the people have no say.
A simple amendment to our Constitution could change that, but there are enough pro-choice state legislators to prevent that from happening. It would take a two-thirds majority, and the votes aren’t there. At a convention a majority could prevail, and give the voters a chance to decide the issue.
If the people call for a constitutional convention this November, it will probably be because they want to protect and perpetuate the Permanent Fund Dividend. Opponents of the Convention will use scare tactics, saying the delegates, and the people, can’t be trusted. Millions of dollars will be spent trying to convince Alaskans that they can’t be trusted.
Who can be trusted?
Should we trust the lawyers to pick our judges? Should we trust the teacher’s union to control the education of our children? Should we trust the Alaska Supreme Court to decide abortion policy? Should we trust the Legislature with the Permanent Fund dividend?
Or should we, instead, trust ourselves?
Fritz Pettyjohn served in the Alaska legislature in the 1980’s, and has practiced law in Alaska since 1974.