Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy today asked the Alaska Judicial Council to reconsider their nominations to the Alaska Supreme Court. He said the choices given to him did not reflect balance or diversity in philosophy or Alaska experience adequately for the governor to make a fair choice for the people of Alaska.
Not by coincidence, surely, the governor waited until July 1, after Chief Justice Joel Bolger had retired. Bolger headed up the Judicial Council and had on various occasions shown bias against Dunleavy during public remarks.
“Alaska’s court system, in particular the Supreme Court, should reflect the balanced viewpoints of all Alaskans,” Dunleavy wrote.
“Over the past several months, I have heard a number of concerns regarding representation of rural Alaska in the Judiciary. I have seen this point articulated by the Supreme Court’s ‘Advisory Committee on Fairness and Access’, outlined in last summer’s statements by the Supreme Court, and recognized through the numerous court system programs target at attracting diversity into the judicial profession,” Dunleavy wrote.
Dunleavy noted that the Judicial Council had bypassed rural applicant Judge Paul Roetman, who has “more time serving as a judge and a significantly longer timeframe living in Alaska than any individual nominated.” Roetman was the only applicant from rural Alaska.
“Alaska is a place where everyone has a fair shot to pursue the life and career they choose,” Dunleavy wrote, “and in that context I want to see our Judiciary reflect the culture and spirit of our state.”
“The people of Alaska wonder how someone like Judge Roetman is qualified to sit where he currently is [Kotzebue] but not have his name put forward for consideration to the Alaska Supreme Court.”
Dunleavy asked for a new slate of names to choose from to replace Bolger.
Not all members of the Judicial Council had concurred with the names of the three Anchorage white women judges. Kristie Babcock, the newest member of the judicial council, said she was disappointed that Roetman, who is Hispanic and from Kotzebue, was not listed as a nominee, even though the Supreme Court had said they sought more diversity.
In fact, all public members supported forwarding Roetman at the May meeting. Only the attorney members of the council voted no.
It was former Chief Justice Bolger’s own vote that broke the tie and nominated the three women, snubbing Roetman and giving the governor three hardcore liberal judges to choose from.
The new Supreme Court Justice is Justice Daniel Winfree of Fairbanks, who is now also the head of the Judicial Council.
It was a similar instance in 2019, when Dunleavy was unhappy with names the Judicial Council had provided him for a judicial appointment, that became part of the Recall Dunleavy campaign to unseat the governor.