Mounting displeasure with activist Alaska judges who wantonly legislate from the bench – gutting and striking down laws they deem distasteful – is coming to a head this November.
A prominent group of Alaska business owners, mayors, pastors, attorneys and former legislators has just launched a grassroots campaign to oust a sitting member of the Alaska Supreme Court.
Alaskans for Judicial Reform held a press conference on Oct. 5 outside the Nesbit Courthouse in Anchorage to announce its plans. The group has its sights set on Justice Susan Carney, due to her notorious decisions against laws that were duly passed by the Legislature and rightly signed into law by the governor.
“We are encouraged,” said the group’s spokesperson Wendy Perkins, “that Alaskans across the state from every background including influencers in the faith, business and political communities agree that the judiciary, our third branch of government, should not legislate from the bench and force their social agenda on Americans and Alaskans.”
While Carney has sat on the high court for only four years, she has already amassed a record of overstepping her role by trampling laws she despises, the group charges.
She voted to gut a 1994 law that created a public sex offender registry. Carney chose to simply change the law from the bench by giving judges the ability to exempt offenders they deem worthy.
According to Alaskans for Judicial Reform, Carney’s actions are prime examples of a judicial activism from the bench.
She also joined a decision to strike down limits on public funding of abortion, a move that her colleague Justice Craig Stowers blasted for overriding the State Legislature’s constitutional authority to enact state laws.
Additionally, Carney is under fire for upholding Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to veto nearly half of the 2016 Permanent Fund Dividend, a move that ignored the legal formula which had always established how much Alaskans are owed each year.
According to Alaskans for Judicial Reform, Carney’s actions are prime examples of a judicial activism from the bench, and they are urging Alaskans to remove her from the high court on Nov. 3. The group includes former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, Kenai Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, Ketchikan Borough Mayor Rodney Dial, Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries, former Republican National Committee Chair for Alaska Tuckerman Babcock, former State Representative Wes Keller and many others.
Removing Carney from the Supreme Court would send a clear message to power hungry justices, but this is only a first step.
The State Constitution guarantees Alaskans the ability to either retain or reject a judge after they sit on the bench for more than three years. A simple majority can send them packing.
Removing Carney from the Supreme Court would send a clear message to power hungry justices, but this is only a first step. The root problem comes from the way Alaska’s judges are selected in the first place. The Alaska Judicial Council is a small but powerful group. This unelected seven-member body enjoys exclusive power to select all candidates the governor can choose from when appointing any and all state judges. Since the majority of the council is always comprised of at least four members of the left-leaning Alaska Bar Association, it’s nearly impossible to seat a judge who adheres to the constitution and the limits of their office.
It doesn’t matter if Alaska has a conservative governor who wants to appoint constitutionalist judges, he can only appoint candidates from a narrow list of names forwarded to him by the Judicial Council. To change this requires a constitutional amendment.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
While ousting Carney is not the end game, it would show legislators that Alaskans are ready to change the way the state appoints judges. Many other states allow citizens to vote on judges directly or permit the governor to nominate his pick with the legislature then holding confirmation hearings – much how the president and U.S. Senate currently operate.
That’s not possible in Alaska yet. For now, all voters can do is send a message to Susan Carney and her ilk that Alaskans are tired of judges who see no check or balance to their power over the Legislature, the governor or the people of Alaska.
To learn more about the effort to remove Susan Carney, go to VoteNoCarney.com.