Retired judges cackle during committee hearing on Judicial Council


A couple of retired judges sat in the back of the Senate Judiciary meeting and cackled loudly on Friday as Sen. Mike Shower and his aide Scott Ogan presented SJR 3, which proposes an adjustment to the way Alaska appoints members to the Alaska Judicial Council.

Retired Chief Justice Walter “Bud” Carpeneti was one of the cacklers, and not once, but twice he and his colleague were loud enough to disrupt the proceedings. Sen. Shower turned around to see who was making the disruption. Clearly, the retired judges did not like SJR 3 and were making their feelings known to the committee.

Shower had a small audience in front of him. Finance Committee was meeting at the same time, so for most of the meeting, it was just Sen. Shelley Hughes and Sen. Jesse Kiehl listening to Shower and Ogan.

Shower said that Article 1 Section 2 of Alaska’s Constitution provides that all power is inherent in the people. But when it comes to appointing people to the Judicial Council, Alaska’s Constitution has left it up to the professional members of the Bar Association. It’s unwise, Shower argued, to leave something so important to this special interest group.

The Judicial Council is the body that recommends who will become a judge in Alaska. It screens and nominates judicial applicants; evaluates the performance of judges, and makes evaluation information and recommendations available to the voters; and conduct studies.

How does one become a member of the Judicial Council?

Alaska Constitution Article IV, Section 8 sets the Judicial Council at seven members. Three are attorneys appointed by the Alaska Bar Association. Three cannot be attorneys and these are appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the legislature. The appointments are for staggered six-year terms, must be spread over different areas of the state, and must be made without regard to political affiliation.

The chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court is the Council’s seventh member and serves as chairperson.

Sen. Shower believes that the three that are appointed by the Alaska Bar should also stand for confirmation by the Legislature because of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution — the “power inherent in the people” clause. And he’s suggesting this change in the Alaska Constitution be placed before the voters in the next General Election.

This would lessen the unilateral influence that the Alaska Bar has over the selection of judges, he said.

Shower explained that the judicial branch is one-third of government, and has immense power over people’s lives. Most Alaskans are not aware that judges are picked by the Judicial Council. The judges are then appointed by the governor based on those council choices. Judges stand for reelection, but it is difficult to remove them.

“The only part of our state government where people get no direct vote over who sits in control of one-third of our government is the judicial branch. More concerning is this system was designed so lawyers get the final and ultimate say in who becomes a judge. Even with three non-attorneys on the Judicial Council, the Chief Justice can and does weigh in to choose the appointee as the tie-breaking vote, siding with the three attorneys on the council,” Shower said.

“This is quite far from the constitutional precept of the founding fathers of our Republic, in which the people should be represented in all branches of government. Alaska’s system removes the voice of the people directly from the equation. In fact the consultants brought in during Alaska’s constitutional convention believed this system went far beyond what they considered safe and far removed the citizens from the process,” he said.

The Alaska Supreme Court has come out squarely against the proposal.

SJR 3 will be taken up again by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.


  1. If former Justice Carpeneti had integrity, he would testify before the committee and let the quality of his advocacy enter into the process. I would expect that he might be irritated if people behind him cackled as he testified. Justice Carpeneti and his family have sown enormous benefit from the existing judicial selection process. He dishonors everyone by his failure to respect the legislative process.

  2. What exactly was retired Chief Justice Carpeneti’s purpose at this hearing? Was there a comment period or was it just to be disruptive? It seems completely reasonable to have the people of the state have a say in this process – except when you DON’T WANT the people to have a say in the process. Seems their little club is on the verge of getting infiltrated and they want nothing of it.
    Justice Carpeneti has certainly been around the block and has had a long career and seems to be a decent human. I would expect more of him and at least act like an adult at a public hearing. A man of his cred could and should formulate their counterpoint as to why they feel SJR 3 isn’t viable. But, alas, they probably don’t have an argument, hence the cackling. Maybe this is one arena they can’t use the race and gender card.

  3. Cackling judges. Retired, cackling judges. I guess when you are through ordering people around and demanding decorum in your tribunal, all you have left to make yourself feel important and relevant……is to cackle? Or, to cluck… maybe?

    The Committee Chair should have asked them to be quiet during the proceeding…..or to…leave….or to be ORDERED to leave.

    Very disrespectful of these characters without their black robes, and without their courtroom.

    Rude and obnoxious! Thank God they are off the bench. If they still have their bar licenses, a complaint should be filed against both of them at ABA…complete with video and audio.

  4. I want to hear the audio of these idiot judges and their idiot conversations during the Committee proceedings. Can you get these tapes from the Legislature, Suzanne? Put them up at MRAK? Wouldn’t that make for some great conversation amongst the Legislature and the Executive Branch.

  5. 1. Can Shower give evidence of the Chief Justice voting with lawyers an undue proportion of the time?
    2. Garnet asks what was Carpeneti’s reason to attend the meeting. As far as I know, Alaska is still an open meetings state and ANYONE has the right to attend those. Carpeneti served in the Alaska court system for many years and has a vested interest because of those years.
    3. This seems to be a very small meeting, you probably could have heard someone sneeze pretty easily, that would’ve been disruptive, too.
    4. Maybe the Judge did cackle, haven’t you ever been at a meeting and heard someone say something so stupid you did the same?

    • Bob, you must be a judge? Or, are you really Carpeneti? LOL! I bet the latter. Maybe you can disappear for awhile like Byron? Nothing like getting called to the mat…..while unrobed.

    • Bob, I clearly wasn’t questioning his right to be at the hearing. Of course it was an open meeting. I was simply wondering out loud what his purpose was. You, like Mr. Carpeneti, can do better.

  6. FAIR. NEUTRAL. UNBIASED. ???? The creed and requirement of judges. Makes no difference if they are retired or not. They probably still pay bar dues to ABA. If I was Carpenetti, I’d be squirming like a toad. My friend has a recording studio and can greatly enhance the background sounds and voices from 75 feet. Working on this now. Then, well get it on the news. Maybe pay to have it played on the air. Yep. Squirming like a toad……

  7. To fully understand just how corrupt the legal system in Alaska is, please visit If you spend the hours required to fully sift through the documentation of David Haeg’s case, the truth will become clear.

  8. The Bar and the ACLU have a nice little racket going to ensure the right number of leftist judges are installed into the judiciary and they don’t like peon State Senators even thinking about upsetting their apple cart.

  9. So who elected Carpeneti to anything? He was selected by the Judicial Council (his Left-wing brethren) and appointed by a governor. No one elected him, ever. Yet, he has the nerve to invade a properly run Committee hearing in the State Senate, and act like an obnoxious, pompous, spoiled brat who’s candidate for governor lost. Carpenetti just displayed his Democrat flag, loud and clear. Can’t wait to hear the audio tape of him cackling and disrupting the Senate hearing. Nice work, Suzanne. Your brand of truth far eclipses the truth coming from the judiciary.

  10. Carpeneti is an embarrassment to the profession and to himself. His brand of behavior begs the question: How many of his past high court opinions and rulings from the lower bench were influenced and made by his own political beliefs? He opened the door to this inquiry with his juvenile behavior and now, what might otherwise have been a sterling exit from the profession, will now be cast with reasonable suspicion by the public. Very sad.

  11. There was no overt cackling by a judge, retired or otherwise, during the hearing. There may have been some tepid laughter following committee staff Scott Ogen’s attempt to convey an amusing metaphor about wolves and sheep but characterizing the guffaws as cackling or as being disruptive or somehow as disrespectful is misleading.
    This is a classic tempest in a teapot story grounded in conformational bias instead of fact based reporting.

    • One person’s tepid laughter is another’s cackle, Joe. It was enough to get Sen. Shower’s attention and have him turn around and give them a stare. -sd

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