This 'John Doe free pass' judge deserves a 'no' vote from Alaskans who care about violent sex crimes - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021
HomeColumnsThis ‘John Doe free pass’ judge deserves a ‘no’ vote from Alaskans who care about violent sex crimes

This ‘John Doe free pass’ judge deserves a ‘no’ vote from Alaskans who care about violent sex crimes

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Susan Carney has served on the Alaska Supreme Court for just four years. But during that brief time, she has handed down two controversial rulings that should concern all Alaskans who care about our state’s shocking rates of sexual assault and domestic violence.

In both cases, Justice Carney was part of a narrow majority. The court was divided by a vote of 3 to 2.

This means that Susan Carney’s vote was decisive, and had a different justice occupied her seat, the outcome could have been different.

The first case involved a family in Utqiagvik (Barrow) who sued two police officers and the North Slope Borough, alleging that the police entered their home unlawfully. However, the officers had been sent to the home to investigate a potential domestic violence emergency.

The police dispatcher had received a phone call from a friend of the couple in question. The friend reported the couple were having a fight, and that the woman had suffered bruises and a cut on her head.

The trial court judge, Michael Jeffery, ruled in favor of the police and the North Slope Borough, arguing that the officers acted responsibly. But Justice Susan Carney, joined by two others, overturned the judge’s decision.

The best summary of the impact of Justice Carney’s ruling comes from the dissenting opinion of Justices Joel Bolger and Craig Stowers. They wrote:

“The court’s opinion complicates the police response to domestic violence situations by limiting a court’s consideration of a victim’s report conveyed to a police dispatcher. Ignoring this information endangers some of the most vulnerable victims: those whose pleas are silenced by threats or violence. The court offers no persuasive reason to restrict the use of this information when assessing whether the police have acted lawfully in responding to a domestic violence emergency.”

Yet this is not the only case where Justice Susan Carney seems tone-deaf to Alaska’s crisis of domestic violence and sexual assault. In John Doe vs. State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety (2019), Justice Carney joined an opinion declaring that Alaska’s public sex offender registry violated the constitutional rights of persons convicted of sex crimes.

The “John Doe” of this case was convicted in the state of Virginia of aggravated sexual battery. He later moved to Alaska. The Department of Public Safety determined that John Doe’s offense in Virginia had the same elements of first-degree sexual assault under Alaska law. This would carry a presumptive sentence of 20 to 30 years for a first-time offender, and probation supervision for 15 years. In other words, this was a very serious crime.

Nevertheless, Justice Carney and two other justices concluded that John Doe and all other sex offenders could be exempted from the public registry, provided the offender requests a hearing and proves, to the satisfaction of one judge, that “he does not pose a risk to the public sufficient to require continued registration.”

Alaskans should ponder these words carefully. The court majority just seized the power, in defiance of the provisions of the law, to exempt any sex offender from having to register. Are you entitled to know if a convicted child molester lives 100 feet away from where your children play? Justice Carney thinks the court is best equipped to make the decision about whether the risk to your children is “sufficient” to warrant registration of the offender. How will the all-wise judges, who don’t live in your neighborhood, decide what level of risk is acceptable to your family?

In this case, Justices Joel Bolger and Craig Stowers once again dissented, noting: “…most courts that have considered the question have agreed that sex offender registration is reasonably related to the legitimate state goal of protecting the public from sex offenders.”

Yes, most courts do—but not Alaska’s. Our court is different. It sides with criminals, and against the police and public safety. Susan Carney is not the only Supreme Court justice who hands down these dangerous rulings, but she’s the only one on the 2020 ballot. Alaskans should hold her accountable by voting no on her retention. 

Colonel Tom Anderson is a Alaska State Trooper (Retired) who earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for 50 years of Public Safety Service

G. Scott Campbell is a Alaska State Trooper (Retired) and former Director of Public Safety & Chief of Police for the North Slope Borough Police Department. He is a retired U.S. Marine.

Tom Clemons is the former Seward Chief of Police and former Alaska State Trooper.

Colonel John Murphy is a former U.S. Marshal, former director of the Alaska State Troopers and Navy veteran

SGT John Tidwell, Jr. is a 25 year veteran of the Alaska Department of Corrections – (Retired)

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Latest comments

  • She already got my “no” vote, along with a “no” vote on every single one of them, with the exception of Judge Wallace. He does a fair and remarkable job with Veterans Court.
    People need to take note of these judges. So often people don’t pay attention to their decisions and those decisions matter. Don’t forget the Justin Schneider case. I’m sure you all remember he kidnapped a woman, choked her to unconsciousness, and masterbated on her. He got NO jail time thanks to Judge Michael Corey. Thank God a group banded together with a grass roots effort to get rid of this useless Judge.

  • I religiously vote no to oppose ALL retention votes for judicial officers. I trust no process that involves a lawyer majority making decisions who becomes a judge or which should be retained. This is a biased process and error on the part of Alaska’s Founders.

    • No on all judges. I have zero confidence in any of them. They care nothing for hard working law abiding tax payers and bend over backwards for criminals of every stripe.

  • Well said!

  • Absolutely correct, if we don’t change it now. it will never be corrected!

  • I voted no on every single judge.

  • “In this case, Justices Joel Bolger and Craig Stowers once again dissented, noting: “…most courts that have considered the question have agreed that sex offender registration is reasonably related to the legitimate state goal of protecting the public from sex offenders.””

    This is actually the problem. We are allowing the government to essentially arbitrarily apply a life-long label, easily discovered in a generalized search (as opposed to by an employer, or someone taking the time to look that particular person up via public Court records), which involves a massive social cost to the registrant, to a person who has completed their sentence.

    Mere Rational Basis review is not appropriate for such a lifelong continuing punishment. We do not tar repeat violent, or drug, offenders with such labels, though they are statistically far more likely to reoffend. Indeed, there is outcry nowadays for all such felons to have their pasts concealed from public view, regardless of likelihood to reoffend, to better enable their rehabilitation and reentry into society.

    The Sex Offender Registry, given the consequences for placement thereon, should have to at least be proven, by the state, to be narrowly tailored to achieve a provable government interest. The evidence on such registries, like it or not, shows they simply do not have any positive effect on either recidivism nor public safety. Under even Intermediate Scrutiny this modern day Scarlet Letter would, and should, be abolished in the name of Justice.

    • Before the registry word always got around about whomever was messing with other peoples kids. The cops were the main source of that info. They did a good job of it.
      That’s one reason why pervs moved so often. They got found out rather quickly.
      The registry ties the cops hands with paperwork and legal restraints. It is now all but illegal for the cops to put out the word, because the word is now a formal process with the registry.
      It is now entirely up to the curious to formally request the info, and then it’s available only within their close ares. Nothing about the ones across town, or outside of town.
      Most of all, the registry gives a false sense of something being done about the problem.
      Reporting new offenses has become problimatical also. Who in their right minds want’s any of their close family members on the registry? It shames the entire family, and raises a public perception of it running in the family.

  • The problem is with Justice Carney. She has been legislating from the bench.

    Defend sex offenders if you will but the Alaska public demands protection from these miscreant convicted sexual offenders. Protecting the criminal instead of the public is the underlining problem with the Alaska Judiciary today. Our Constitution, Article 2, Section 2 says “All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.” Her ruling did not reflect the good of Alaskans. The Legislature’s job is to write the law, not this Justice.

    Alaska judges and justices are appointed by the Bar Association with a stacked deck. Rather than continuing to defend the fallacy that we have a non-partisan system to judging our judges, let’s change the system of appointments so that the public has a supermajority on the Alaska Judicial Council.

    Justice Carney is but one example of judicial overreach. Her retirement by the voters will make other judges and justices consider the will of the people in their process, just as the Constitution requires.

    • Jim, you left out something.

      “America is a republic and not a pure democracy. The contemporary efforts to weaken our republican customs and institutions in the name of greater equality thus run against the efforts by America’s Founders to defend our country from the potential excesses of democratic majorities. American republicanism and the ordered liberty it makes possible are grounded in the Federalists’ recognition that non-majoritarian parts of the community make legitimate contributions to the community’s welfare, and that preserving these contributions is the hallmark of political justice. But, the careful balance produced by our mixed republic is threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty. Preserving the republican freedoms we cherish requires tempering egalitarian zeal and moderating the hope for a perfectly just democracy.”

  • Why only hold Judge Carney accountable for her decision? There were two other judges that voted likewise on the cases described above, so why not name them and vote “no” regarding their retention as well?

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