The controversial process by which Alaska appoints judges will again take center stage when Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court Joel Bolger steps down in June. Seven attorneys have applied to fill the coming vacancy.
Once again, the seven-member Alaska Judicial Council will vet all applicants and then forward a minimum of two names to Gov. Mike Dunleavy. According to Alaska’s Constitution, the governor is bound to appoint someone from that list.
The perennial problem for conservatives, however, is that the Judicial Council is dominated by left-leaning members of the Alaska Bar Association, which chooses members from among their ranks. At any given point the council’s membership is made up of four bar members (including the chief justice of the Supreme Court) and only three appointments by the governor. In effect, the liberal wing always enjoys a 4-3 majority which makes it nearly impossible for a governor to appoint a conservative, constitutionalist judge.
State Sen. Mike Shower introduced a resolution last week to change the way Alaska Judicial Council members are appointed. His Senate Join Resolution 3 would allow for a constitutional amendment that would empower the State Legislature to approve all members of the Alaska Judicial Council, thereby reducing the ability of the Alaska Bar Association to control the makeup of the council. Even if approved, Shower’s proposed constitutional amendment would not be voted on until after Bolger’s replacement has been selected.
The list of applicants to replace Bolger includes the following men and women.
JUDGE JENNIFER STUART HENDERSON
Henderson is currently a superior court judge in Anchorage. Last year she ruled in favor of the ACLU lawsuit against Governor Mike Dunleavy’s veto of $334,700 from the Alaska Court System after the Alaska Supreme Court ordered the state to pay that amount for publicly funded abortions. She ruled against the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. By doing so, she implied that the court actually has the power to declare that the governor’s line-item veto is unconstitutional, and that the judicial branch of government actually has the power to order a restoration of funds to its own budget, an act which is constitutionally delegated only to the Legislature.
While studying at Yale Law, she was the editor of the liberal Yale Journal of Law & Feminism. Her personal references when applying for the Superior Court included Rep. Lindsey Holmes (former pro-abortion legislator) and James Torgerson (a former Bar member of the Alaska Judicial Council, and the husband of Judge Morgan Christen, the Obama-appointed judge on the 9th Circuit who once served as a Board member for Planned Parenthood of Alaska.
JUDGE YVONNE LAMOUREUX
Lamoureux is currently a superior court judge in Anchorage. She is perhaps best known for being the judge who ruled against the Dunleavy Administration’s rejection of the Ballot Measure 2 initiative, which was narrowly approved by voters on Nov. 3. It completely changes the way elections are conducted in Alaska. This initiative clearly violated the single-subject rule for initiatives, but Lamoureux ruled that it was fine to proceed with a complex ballot measure that would destroy the one-Alaskan, one-vote system that has governed the state since its beginning.
Lamoureux also clerked for 9th Circuit Judge Morgan Christen, an Obama appointee who was formerly on the Alaska Supreme Court and was local counsel for Planned Parenthood. Lamoureux had an internship at Feldman & Orlansky. Jeff Feldman & Susan Orlansky have long represented Planned Parenthood in various lawsuits against the state of Alaska.
JUDGE PAUL ROETMAN
Roetman is currently a superior court judge in Kotzebue. He is respected by conservative leaders across the state. He recently applied to fill a vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court, but the Alaska Judicial Council refused to forward his name to the governor for consideration. A man of faith, he has a keen interest in constitutional law and is respected by his fellow judges. In his application for the Supreme Court, he notes that he is the son of Mexican-American parents who “exemplified hard work and sacrifice.” Roetman serves on the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.
JUDGE DANI CROSBY
Crosby is a superior court judge in Anchorage. She recently struck down a state law which requires that all absentee ballots include the signature of one witness to help verify that the ballot was cast by the proper person. She said the longstanding law didn’t serve any meaningful purpose and should be tossed. She also interned for the left leaning Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. She was rejected by Gov. Sean Parnell when she applied for the Superior Court but was appointed by Gov. Bill Walker.
Patton-Walsh is currently chief assistant attorney general for special litigation in Anchorage. In 2016, as an assistant attorney general for the state, she argued in defense of a state law that requires doctors to notify a pregnant minor’s parents before she can undergo an abortion. Planned Parenthood brought the suit, which eventually resulted in the law being struck down by the Alaska Supreme Court.
Whipple is currently in private practice with a focus on adoption and personal injury cases. He graduated from Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Education and earned his law degree from the University of San Diego, School of Law. He supports the pro-life HeartReach pregnancy and works with the group to facilitate adoptions.
JUDGE JONATHAN WOODMAN
Woodman is currently a superior court judge in Palmer. In 2015, as a senior assistant attorney general, he argued on behalf of the state of Alaska when it appealed a judge’s decision that struck down limitations on medically necessary abortion for purposes of Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest sued the state over the law.
- Public comment on the qualifications of these applicants can be sent to the Alaska Judicial Council for its consideration. To provide comments or information, contact Alaska Judicial Council Executive Director Susanne Dipietro at (907) 279-2526 or send mail to: Susanne Dipietro, Alaska Judicial Council, 510 L. Street, Suite 450, Anchorage, AK 99501-1295. For more contact information, click here.