The seven-member Alaska Judicial Council emerged from its executive session on Dec. 6 to reveal that it had voted to approve four of the seven attorneys who applied to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree. Gov. Mike Dunleavy must pick one of those candidates to replace Winfree. He cannot select anyone outside of this list, according to the Alaska Constitution.

Judge Paul Roetman

Notably absent from the approved list was Alaska District Judge Paul Roetman. While being an accomplished judge who has long presided over the Second Judicial District covering Kotzebue, Nome, Unalakleet, Utqiagvik and more than 20 villages in rural Alaska, Roetman is also viewed as a conservative minded judge who holds to a constitutionalist philosophy.

This puts him at a disadvantage since he must first be endorsed by the Alaska Judicial Council, which consists of three people appointed by the governor, three members from the left-leaning Alaska Bar Association, and the sitting chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court – also a member of the Alaska Bar.

Roetman has applied to serve on the State Supreme Court four times, and has been denied at every turn. In each of his rejections, the Judicial Council has declined to offer any rationale for why they withheld Roetman from the lists they sent to the governor. These denials have come despite the fact that Roetman serves as chair of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, which oversees the conduct of justices of the Alaska Supreme Court, judges of the state court of appeals, state superior court judges, and state district court judges.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy clearly admires Roetman, having twice picked him to preside over his post-election swearing in ceremonies. Most recently, this happened on Dec. 5, the day before Roetman’s application was denied by the Judicial Council.

The four individuals approved by the Judicial Council on Dec. 6 were Dani Crosby and Aimee Oravec, each of whom received 6-0 approval votes, along with Jude Pate and Kate Demarest, who were endorsed with 5-1 votes.

As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Winfree is the seventh and tie-breaking member of the Judicial Council. He did not cast a vote as there were no ties.

In addition to Roetman, who was voted down 1-5, the other candidates who failed to pass muster with the Judicial Council were Margaret Paton Walsh (2-4) and Holly Wells, who did not receive a single vote of approval.

As in past instances, the Judicial Council offered no rationale for why certain candidates were given the green light while others were barred from the governor’s consideration.

Roetman is the most high-profile candidate to be rejected. The last time he applied, in 2021, he was voted down 3-4. In 2020 he was denied following a concerted public effort to encourage the Judicial Council to approve his application. Those backing Roetman at the time included prominent state legislators, Alaska Native leaders and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

The chronic inability of qualified conservative judges to get past the Alaska Judicial Council is a primary reason many conservative Alaskans want to see the state change the way it selects judges. In many other states judges are approved through a popular vote, or the governor nominates candidates who must then be approved by the state legislature.

Changing Alaska’s system requires a constitutional amendment.

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Prominent conservative judge blocked from Alaska Supreme Court nomination

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Molly says:

    Amend our constitution to remove the Alaska Judicial Council from the process entirely. That would be a good start.

    • Reggie Taylor says:

      Neither the Legislature or the Alaskan electorate will vote to amend the Constitution to allow more conservative judges on the state Supreme Court. If I’m incorrect, I would absolutely love for somebody to prove otherwise.
      Show me………

      • Michael Alan says:

        I can’t prove you wrong. This is a problem the Alaska GOP created and lacks the will to correct.
        Either we have weak leadershiP, Democrats posing as GOP or both

  • Brian Driscoll says:

    You don’t mention the “leanings” of the four judges who passed muster nor the other two who didn’t but it seems you are suggesting a bias against a “conservative leaning” applicant. In JOUR101 they teach to be more thorough.

    • Lobo says:

      Judges should not have “ANY” say in judicial appointments, regardless of their “political” leanings. In an intelligent setting, Judges aren’t seated to “judge” the appointments, and decide who their associates are… that’s no different from a couple of kids saying a new kid can’t come onto the playground because the new kid doesn’t look like, or think as they do, or the new kid didn’t pass ‘their” muster.

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    Well, does this suprise anyone? No. I knew and could of predicted that non of the Conservatives would be considered. It’s to bad. We get an honest judge and he’s not goodenough. The panel is that bias (prejudice). I say it’s time for a constitutional amendment! This prejudice bias needs to stop.

  • H Paul Campbell says:

    Need a constitutional amendment, this has to stop

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    “… Alaska Judicial Council, which consists of three people appointed by the governor,…..” If Dunleavy really wanted this guy in, why did not he appoint him as one of the three that he gets to appoint? Who are the three that Dunleavy did appoint?

    • Molly says:

      It does not matter how many the governor appoints, the judicial council has three plus the supreme court judge to break the tie, guess who selected the judge?

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        I heard that it was mostly left-leaning judges selecting more left-leaning judges. It would be nice if Dunleavy would make sure that there were some conservative judges to give people a chance of getting a fair shake if they are not into tearing down the country.

  • TDH` says:

    MORE ALASKA CORRUPTION, the Judicial Council, should not be allowed to select judges who suit their views.

  • Shelia says:

    Thanks to the Judicial Council any governor has little or no control because of left-leaning bias. Unless there is an amendment overturning this problem, every conservative governor will be blamed for something he cannot fix or do anything about. Dunleavy tried during his first term by asking for an additional list but was told in no uncertain terms that the list that he had was it. It was added to the impeachment attempt by angry lefties who were backed by the newspapers. For those who blame the governor, they need to look further into the problem. The deck is stacked against Dunleavy big time.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    We need to stand up for the People’s rights. This interview expresses the grave situation coming to us if we do not stand up now and take back control of our state, our nation, our world! “Dr. Li-Meng Yan – WARNING: Australia is QUICKLY Escalating to CCP Social Credit System”

  • Diana says:

    What this governor does on this issue and what he wants does not matter. The whole task itself should be changed to allow an open discussion with the people and the task should start with the Department of Administration. We, as the state need to look at changing or amending the Constitution of Alaska. It should take at minimum two or three terms of any governor and legislative body plus the vote of the people to make the changes as amendments are discussed and put to the public in a vote. The judicial system is in the same pay system of the state and therefore it needs changes in its personnel actions and categories to fit the purpose of service to the people. The governor needs to be removed from those decisions and they should be turned over to the Department of Administration. All employees should go before that Department for a job classified by them and the pay that goes with it. All elected governors think they are irreplaceable and they are not. They should have limited power and activities for state business. All boards should be under the control of the legislative bodies. This state is always in trouble over those issues. The legislature needs to clean it up, take responsibility and move it to the people for a vote to make those changes.

  • micah6v8 says:

    Another brick in the wall to how Alaska is falling blue. It is like watching a slow traffic wreck.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Off the topic: Is anyone aware that just about one million acres are being put up for auction by the end of this month by the Biden administration and that the land is in the Cook Inlet region? I saw the article in The EPOCH times ( The land is between Kalgin Island & Augustine Island according to the article and the auction will take place 12/30/2022. Supposedly the land is being sold for oil and gas production. Can you believe this considering that Biden has been shutting every other place down? My gut instinct is that the regime is up to no good again.