Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
02/19/2015 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SJR 3-CONST. AM: MEMBERSHIP OF JUDICIAL COUNCIL 9:02:52 AM CHAIR STOLTZE announced the consideration of SJR 3. 9:03:24 AM SENATOR PETE KELLY, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SJR 3, related that the resolution has been in process for two years and there has been a lot of discussion on it. CHAIR STOLTZE asked for an explanation of the bill. SENATOR KELLY proclaimed that there is a problem with the Alaska Constitution regarding the way members are selected for the Judicial Council. Currently, the Judicial Council selects nominees that are forwarded to the Governor and acts as a gatekeeper for the third branch of Alaska's government. There are problems in that the Constitution requires that the selection is made with consideration for regional representation and there are only six members on the Council. The Constitution also requires three of the members to be attorneys. CHAIR STOLTZE asked how the attorneys are selected. SENATOR KELLY explained that they are selected by the Alaska Bar Association, not by the people, the legislature, nor the Governor. He said the individuals on the Bar are sincere and do their homework, but there is no input from the public. Most attorneys come from large cities, not rural Alaska, therefore the representation is limited. He related that there are also three public members on the Council. Over time, only two public members have come from rural Alaska. 9:08:13 AM SENATOR KELLY detailed that the other problem with the Council is that with a six-person Council, ties are possible, and the tie breaker is the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. He said the names are forwarded to the Governor for selection, with most ties going in favor of the attorneys. He called choosing to not forward a name on to the Governor disturbing and aggressive gatekeeping. He provided an example. 9:13:15 AM SENATOR KELLY read from Vic Fischer's book regarding the Missouri Plan, saying that the selection process withdraws the control of the Judicial Branch away from the people and places it under an organized Bar. He continued to say that no state constitution has gone so far in placing a branch of government beyond the reach of Democratic controls. He noted that the Constitutional Convention members were warned by their own consultants when they were examining the Missouri Plan in order to create a Judicial Branch. He concluded that attorneys have created their own judicial system and are able to control it via tie votes being decided by the Chief Justice. 9:15:15 AM SENATOR KELLY stated that another problem is there is no confirmation hearing process. He termed Alaska an "elitist state" in this matter. A third problem is that the provision in the State Constitution regarding representation is not attainable. The Chief Justice is also put in a predicament of voting for the next potential Supreme Court member. 9:18:45 AM SENATOR KELLY stressed that all other Boards must go through the confirmation process, but the Judicial Council regulates their own organization. He summarized that SJR 3 adds three additional public members, requires confirmation, and removes the Supreme Court Justice from having to vote when there are ties. 9:20:39 AM HEATHER SHADDUCK, Staff, Senator Pete Kelly, Alaska State Legislature, presented information related to SJR 3. She noted on page 2, line 2, of the resolution it states that the Judicial Council shall act by a majority vote of the quorum of at least seven members and according to the rules which it adopts. She explained that, currently, four out of the six members make a quorum. The resolution sets the quorum at seven to allow both attorneys and public members to have a say. CHAIR STOLTZE said he has invited members of the Supreme Court to testify. 9:23:26 AM CHAIR STOLTZE held SJR 3 in committee. SENATOR MCGUIRE joined the committee meeting.