EDITORIAL: Alaska needs the best to serve in judicial branch

Alaska has three branches of state government: Executive, headed by Gov. Sean Parnell; legislative headed by Senate President Gary Stevens and House Speaker Mike Chenault, and judicial, headed by Chief Justice Walter Carpenetti, who is one of five members of the Alaska Supreme Court.

That tells you how important to Alaska and Alaskans selecting another Supreme Court Justice is. There are only five. History shows that most members take a turn as the chief justice.

Currently, there is a position on Alaska’s highest court because of Justice Morgan Christen’s appointment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Alaska Judicial Council advertised for applicants to fill the position vacated by Morgan, and 14 attorneys and judges from around the state applied.

They include: Joel H. Bolger, an Alaska Court of Appeals judge; Jeffrey Friedman, an administrative law judge in Anchorage; Andy Harrington, an assistant attorney general in Fairbanks; Charles T. Huguelet, a Kenai Superior Court judge; Michael A. MacDonald, a Fairbanks Superior Court judge; Frank Pfiffner, an Anchorage Superior Court judge; Eric Smith, a Palmer Superior Court judge, and Terry L. Thurbon, Chief Administrative Law Judge in Juneau.

Also applying are the following attorneys in private practice: William Grant Callow, Kevin G. Clarkson, Peter J. Maassen, Don McClintock, and Marc Wilhelm, all of Anchorage, and Daniel Westerburg of Homer.

Each applicant will be interviewed by the Alaska Judicial Council, which includes the chief justice, three attorney members and three lay members.

They will come up with a list of applicants who are most qualified — a minimum of two — and forward those names to the governor. The governor will interview the finalists and make an appointment within 45 days of receiving the finalists’ names.

Part of the process involves the public. Specifically, the public is encouraged to comment on the qualifications of the candidates. The public comment is considered by the Judicial Council during its evaluation of the candidates.

Alaskans with information supporting or opposing appointment of any of the applicants would send their comments to Larry Cohn, executive director of the Judicial Council, 1029 W. Third Ave., Suite 201, Anchorage 99501.

All information provided to the council is helpful. It’s also critical to not only one of three branches of Alaska government, but to Alaskans who live by the decisions of the Supreme Court.

We want the best of the best interpreting Alaska law. If you can help Alaska be its best by offering information, then please comment.

02/09/2012 - 7:43am