Justice Stowers retiring, but will he be replaced by a conservative?


Gov. Mike Dunleavy could be getting his “Trump moment” when it comes to shaping the Alaska Supreme Court.

Justice Craig Stowers, one of the court’s most conservative jurists, is retiring, opening up an opportunity for Gov. Mike Dunleavy to appoint a like-minded conservative to the court, one who could serve for many years into the future.

President Donald Trump had that moment not long after he took office. On Jan. 31, 2017, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed the high court’s most strict constitutionalist, Antonin Scalia, who had died (somewhat mysteriously, with a pillow over his face).

But Dunleavy’s ability to appoint a conservative to replace a conservative may be stymied.

He must choose from nominees given to him by the Alaska Judicial Council, a decidedly liberal body that polls members of the Alaska Bar Association, who also lean liberal. Those members rate the candidates and the council forwards the names of finalists to the governor. By law, he must pick from that prescreened list.

This is known as the Missouri Plan, and it’s supposed to get partisan politics out of judicial selection. But critics say that it gives unelected, unaccountable trial lawyers way too much influence in the selection process.

Members of the Judicial Council include Chief Justice Joel Bolger, who has already sent a warning shot over the bow of the Dunleavy Administration, in his speeches and published writings.

Also on the Judicial Council is James E. Torgerson, husband of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Morgan Christen, who was appointed to the Ninth by President Barack Obama.

Only two members of the council were appointed by Dunleavy.

Justice Stowers was appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell in 2009 and has been the dissenting vote in two important abortion cases. The first was when he voted to uphold the parental notification law passed by the Legislature. That law was overturned by the rest of the court, which means in Alaska, a minor can get an abortion, but not a tattoo or piercing, without her parent’s knowledge. Stowers was again the dissenting voice on the court when it came to Medicaid funding for elective abortions. For now, the court is forcing Alaska to pay for these elective abortions, against the wishes of the Legislature and most Alaskans.

Alaskans will have only a glimpse of the judicial nomination process, which is somewhat secretive in its balloting, and those who apply for court vacancies are voted on by only those Alaska Bar members who choose to take the time to vote.

Applications for Stowers’ replacement will be taken by the council through Feb. 14, and interviews are held in the spring. Once the list of finalists is given to the governor, he has 45 days to pick from the list.

Last year, when Dunleavy delayed naming a judge past the 45-day limit, that action became one of the grounds that the Recall Dunleavy group used to say he is unfit for office, an allegation that will be argued in court on Friday, Jan. 10, as the State Department of Law tries to fend off the Recall Dunleavy movement in court.


  1. My favorite member from the past Judicial Council was Joe Miller’s wife. She had tremendous influence on keeping a few highly Left-leaning and nutcase Liberals from getting past the JC’s early screening process. One could say this was a mild version of revenge for Joe, who took a beating by Lisa Murkowski’s Looney Left. Keeping a wacko Democrat off of the Supreme Court is honorable craftwork for Republicans.

        • Trouser, back on your medication, please. Naomi is clearly stating that Mrs. Joe Miller played a role in keeping John Eberhart from further consideration of being appointed as a judge. It was a good move by Mrs. Miller, as John Eberhart wasn’t qualified to be a judge, and clearly wasn’t qualified to be Fairbanks’ mayor. Go back to Jr. High reading comprehension courses, Trouser.

          • I heard John Eberhart got the Australian boot too. Would that be a swift kick to the outback, or a gut punch by a Big Red? Quantas’ frequent flier miles to Alaska keep piling up, mate.

  2. If you read the “Statutes Of the State of Alaska” it says every Judge must have a “Signed Letter of Commission from the Governor” but instead the Governor only says, “Thank you for accepting” because the “Alaska Bar Association” really chooses all the Judges and they must ALL be a “Member of the Alaska Bar”. That makes all Judges and Attorneys answerable to the “Alaska Bar” and no longer “Independent” as is suppose to be a requirement for all Judges and Attorneys to make Independent Decisions in all cases. Also the “Alaska Bar Rules” super cedes all Statutes as of 197?. The “Alaska Bar Association” stands outside the so-called Constitution and is a member of the “National Bar Association” in Washington D.C. which is a member of the “International Bar Association” in Brussels, Belgium. Please think about that for just a moment. B.A.R. also stands for “British ? Registry”. The Alaska Court System is also a part of “Health and Human Services” and years ago there was a paper in the Court House in Kenai, that listed the duties of the Court and one said “To give the appearance of Justice”. Once again read that very carefully. I still have a copy of that paper in my files. “The Appearance of Justice”. We no longer have any (Common) Law Courts. They have all been overturned. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  3. The Alaska Judicial Council, with the backing of the members of the Alaska Bar Association will never forward the name of a conservative lawyer to be a Supreme Court Justice. Judicial politics is no longer a game; it is a matter of achieving the goals of the Left by any means necessary.

  4. Good comment, Naomi. John Eberhart, an extreme left-wing partisan, ran up quite a tab for Fairbanks taxpayers. He even had the unmitigated gall to charge taxpayers for his personal legal fees regarding a Court ruling which he ultimately lost. Fairbanks voters resoundingly gave him the boot. Eberhart ran off like the coward that he is and ended up working as a Teamster lawyer in Anchorage. At least he has a few union bodyguards, which is better than living in an isolated protection program in Australia.

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