Thursday, July 2, 2009

Challenge could give Gov. Palin more choices in selecting judges

This press release explains:

1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807-3510
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Phone 812/232-2434; Fax 812/235-3685;
Alaska Voters and Candidate Challenge Process for Selecting State Judges
Two Alaska voters and one past judicial candidate filed suit today in federal court to stop the current plan for selecting state judges in Alaska. The current plan denies ordinary Alaska voters an equal voice in selecting their judges. 
In Alaska, a seven member group called the Judicial Council limits nominees forwarded to the Governor for open seats on Alaska’s courts. Governor Palin is then forced to choose one of them, regardless of differences of views on legal matters. Since all nominees allowed to move forward by the Judicial Council may be diametrically opposed to the Governor, the Judicial Council, and not the people, has complete control over who becomes a judge in Alaska. The Judicial Council makeup, with three lawyers selected only from and by the Bar Association, guarantees lawyers have a greater say than ordinary citizens in Alaska in selecting judges who have great power and control over the lives of regular citizens. The suit asks the court to put an end to this inequality and give all Alaska voters an equal voice. 
The case arises out of the upcoming retirement of Justice Robert L. Eastaugh from the Alaska Supreme Court. His retirement will create a vacancy on November 2, 2009. The plaintiffs want the court to stop the three lawyer Council members from selecting the nominees for that vacancy. If successful, when Governor Palin has to make her choice to fill the spot, the names in front of her will be picked by a Council that represents equally all the people of Alaska.
Incidentally, the Alaska Bar Rag, published by the Alaska Bar Association, has recently featured editorials expressing concern over the flaws in the judicial selection process.
According to attorney James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the Alaska plan “gives the Alaska Bar Association a stranglehold on the judiciary. Lawyers in Alaska have enormous influence over who the state judges are, while the ordinary voter is denied the right to an equal voice.” The system needs to be corrected now, before Governor Palin is forced to put another justice on the Supreme Court through an unjust process.
The case is Hinger v. Carpeneti, et al., No. (D. Alaska July 2, 2008). The complaint and memorandum supporting the motion for a preliminary injunction are available in PDF format online at the James Madison Center’s website,, under the "Alaska Judicial Selection Challenge" link on Thursday, July 2, 2009.
James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.

- JP

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