Public hearing set for May 8 on Judge Zeman, who ruled against correspondence classes in Alaska

Judge Adolf Zeman

Alaska Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman, who earlier this month ruled that the State of Alaska may not reimburse families for the correspondence studies of Alaska students, must stand for his first retention election in November. But there’s a process that starts much earlier that involves public input on his performance.

The Alaska Judicial Council takes public testimony on judges standing for retention and reviews the judges’ performance, then makes a recommendation to the voters on whether a judge should be retained.

On Wednesday, May 8, a public hearing on the all judges standing for retention in November will take place via Zoom, an internet-based meeting website.

The Judicial Council’s public hearing will begin at 4:30 p.m. via this Zoom link. Meeting ID: 863 2522 6382 Passcode: 072643.

Participants can phone into the meeting at 833-928-4610 to give their testimony.

Written comments are also accepted by the Judicial Council and will be shared with the judge only after the comments have been edited to remove information that might identify you. Use this email link below to send your comments: [email protected]

The list of judges standing for retention in 2024 is at this link.

Zeman may find headwinds in his retention after he ruled that the 24,000 Alaska students in correspondence school programs may not receive support from the state because that is, by his logic, considered “private school,” something he interprets as banned by the Alaska Constitution.

Correspondence programs that are reimbursed with public funds are approved and administered by school districts.

“This court finds that there is no workable way to construe the statutes to allow only constitutional spending, Zeman wrote. He said the state laws that allow reimbursements for books and materials for students using correspondence studies “must be struck down in their entirety.”

The judge did not consider that books and materials used in government schools are also purchased from private companies. His ruling could impact private tutors and specialists that are now used by districts to supplement classroom learning.

Zeman has had other controversial rulings since he was appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2020.

In November, he ruled that a regulation was illegal when he reenacted a ban on personal use jet skis or personal watercraft in Kachemak Bay. Fish and Game had repealed the regulatory ban, but Zeman stepped on that authority and said jet skis are prohibited in the Fox River Flats and Kachemak Bay “critical habitat areas.”

Fish and Game is appealing the ruling, saying it makes no sense that it, as an agency, has the authority to ban the jet skis but doesn’t have the authority to lift the ban based on current science. But the judge thought that, rather than the state having the authority, the court now has the authority to regulate, saying that although skiffs may be used in the area, personal watercraft may not be used.

The Alaska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the appeal of Zeman’s ban on personal watercraft at 11 a.m. on July 31.

The state’s public notice requesting public comment on the personal watercraft regulation can be seen at this link from 2019.

Judge Zeman’s application to become a judge can be seen at this link.

On Zeman’s recent decision that recently raised the ire of homeschool and correspondence studies families, a coalition of families and affected education providers is forming to craft a constitutional clarification, so that students in Alaska can continue to use correspondence courses and have state support for those classes, said Bethany Marcum, state director for Americans for Prosperity Alaska.

In Alaska, to modify the state constitution, a simple majority vote of 50%+1 is required by the public. There is no direct path from the citizenry via the initiative process to change the Alaska Constitution; the Legislature must put forward the ballot question on behalf of the citizens.

Getting the Alaska Legislature to move on the issue may require a special session, as the regular session must end on May 15, and there’s not been a lot of progress on the question. Some legislators want to do a statutory “fix,” but the judge was clear that there can be no statutory fix to what he sees as a constitutional mandate.

The Alaska Judicial Council has a detailed explanation of the judge retention process and how to take part at this link.

As outlined by the Judicial Council’s website, about six months before the retention election, the council meets to discuss the information gathered for these judicial evaluations, and to decide whether each judge met performance standards during his or her most recent term in office. These performance standards, which are defined in the council’s bylaws, are:

  1. Legal Ability. The judge demonstrates knowledge of substantive law, evidence, and procedure, and clarity and precision in their work.
  2. Impartiality/Fairness. The judge demonstrates a sense of fairness and justice and treats all parties equally.
  3. Integrity. The judge’s conduct is free from impropriety or the appearance of impropriety, and the judge makes decisions without regard to possible public criticism.
  4. Judicial Temperament. The judge is courteous and free from arrogance, and the judge manifests human understanding and compassion.
  5. Diligence and Administrative Skills. The judge is prepared for court proceedings, works diligently, and is reasonably prompt in making decisions.

A judge may request an interview with the council before the council members vote on the retention recommendations. The council may also ask judges to speak with the council members during the final stages of the evaluation process. Judges may respond to concerns raised during the evaluation process and the council may conduct personal interviews with presiding judges, attorneys, court staff, and others about the judge’s performance.

At the conclusion of the process, the council publicly votes whether to recommend that each judge be retained in office, based on its determination that each judge either met or did not meet performance standards. Four votes by council members are necessary for the Judicial Council to recommend for or against the retention of a judge. The chair of the council — the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court — does not vote except when a fourth vote is required for council action, in the event of a 3-3 tie.

The Judicial Council then publicizes the results of its evaluations at least 60 days prior to the election, as well as provide them to the lieutenant governor for inclusion in the state’s Official Election Pamphlet.

Each Alaska voter household receives the Official Election Pamphlet, which includes a page summarizing the Judicial Council’s performance evaluation of each judge. The council also posts non-confidential materials compiled during the evaluations on its web site.


  1. I routinely vote no on all judicial retentions. They win retention in 99.9999999999% in every election despite the social destruction we’ve seen from them over the past 75 years.
    The public deserves every bit of what they get. Let the pain increase.

    • Yes.. It would be nice to SEE how voted yes. I just go down the “would you vote to retain judge…?” list and mark NO. Most of my friends vote NO on judge retention. So.. what’s the percentage of sheeple that vote yes..? Or is this part of the (non) “transparency” we’re told that is supposed to happen by law, but does not..?

      • No Herman, it would NOT be nice to see who voted “yes” just as you would not like for others to scrutinize your ballot choices. There is a very good reason for secret ballots!
        As for the “percentage of sheeple voting yes” the election result is the obvious answer. If the judge gets retained by 90% of the vote then he/she had 90% voters give him/her a yes vote. This is rudimentary and I question you basic understanding of how elections work.

    • The tendency of most regular voters, who are too busy to invest a lot of time in political issues, is to simply vote “yes”. Their assumption is that powers-that-be “know” what they are doing and so their demand is acceptable. This is one reason bonds are packaged in a certain way, so they pass. (How many “security upgrades” for schools have passed over the years, only to reappear again, again? Our schools should look like Fort Knox by now).
      Just like you, I consistently vote “no” on judge retention, as I believe judges should not have a “life-time” appointment with that much power at their disposal. I am also not enamored with the selection process by the judicial council, as it allows the lawyer lobby too much power.

  2. Maybe political matters ruled on by politically biased judges should be treated the same way as our local government does with laws and statutes that do not suit their agenda. Ignore them. They deserve no respect.

  3. The forces that believe the judge should not be retained should really get organized on this matter. If the decision on correspondence schools is unsound, then the flaws in reasoning should be identified.

    In general, the system that controls judicial appointment results in an echo chamber in which most of the Leftists lawyers tell one another that they are so intelligent, so righteous and so woke. And so entitled. Like many universities, there is a lack of intellectual diversity.

    For me, that the judge allowed a photograph to be taken of himself acting like a fool (see above) is enough to convince me he lacks judicial temperament.

    If this fella can be turned out of office, it might produce a moment of self-reflection for the other arrogant judges. Absent that, they will emboldened to produce even worse decisions.

  4. This is an interesting discussion as mostof the folks I talk to ( and I have a very diverse group of friends and acquaintances) claim to have voted no on all of them unless there is one they know personally that they feel confidence in. ( and the old saying about familiarity breeds contempt seems prevalient). Hmmm?

  5. I wish that people reporting on these judges could take the time to explain how the people’s voting actually affects the retention of judges. From what I understand, when we “vote” to retain them or not, our votes are just more like polls where the judges read the results to see how the public is feeling. The actual decision of retaining judges or bringing new ones in is decided by a small group. In other words, our votes really don’t count – everyone could vote “no” to retaining judges and find the judges still being retained.

    • Ginny, you are incorrect. Per our constitution the voters decide in this process whether or not to keep a judge in their position and if not retained the judge will be removed from office.
      You may remember judge Corey, who did not to give jail time to a man convicted of assault. To my knowledge Mr Corey is back to being a lawyer in Anchorage.

      Voters have decided to not retain six judges in Alaska’s history: Justice H.O. Arend (1962); Anchorage District Court Judges Joseph Brewer and Virgil Vochoska (1982); Kenai District Court Judge David Landry (2006); Anchorage District Court Judge Richard Postma, Jr. (2010); and Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey (2018).

  6. While we are talking about the retention of judges.
    Where is the info on the clown who released the guy so he could stab someone at the library?

    That poor lady is now permanently damaged.

    Alaska needs and deserves a better tracking system on stupid decisions by judges…or the impact of the catch and release judicial system.
    We are focused on legislative vs executive branch issues while the judges rewrite our lives here in Alaska.

    Want to borrow something from Washington State, give us the power of initiatives and referendums!!!
    The power is the people’s NOT the elected officials….END OF STORY

  7. I go along with Rest of Story. Alaska needs to have initiatives and referendums done by the people, not the legislature. The PFD question, as well as who approves taxes would have been solved by now. But putting all that power into the legislature means that they will continue to jealously guard their power. Every time Alaskans fail to vote for a convention this is one of the issues that continues to eat at the well being of the citizens.

  8. Ginny, If a majority of voters vote against a judge, then they’re voted out. It’s not advisory. The problem is the voters rarely remove judges. There was one removed in the recent past.


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