Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

01/26/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY


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08:42:12 AM Start
08:42:51 AM Confirmation Hearing: James J. Fayette - Commission on Judicial Conduct
09:09:00 AM Confirmation Hearing: William S.l. Walters - Alaska Public Offices Commission
09:26:55 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Confirmations: TELECONFERENCED
James J. Fayette, Commission on
Judicial Conduct
William S. L. Walters, Alaska Public
Offices Commission
Regina C. Chennault, Violent Crimes
Compensation Board
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        January 26, 2006                                                                                        
                           8:42 a.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ralph Seekins, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Charlie Huggins, Vice Chair                                                                                             
Senator Gene Therriault                                                                                                         
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                              
Confirmation Hearings:                                                                                                          
     James J. Fayette, Commission on Judicial Conduct                                                                           
          CONFIRMATION ADVANCED                                                                                                 
     William S. L. Walters, Alaska Public Offices Commission                                                                    
          CONFIRMATION ADVANCED                                                                                                 
     Regina C. Chennault, Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                     
          SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
None to report                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                              
Mr. James J. Fayette                                                                                                            
310 K. St. STE 308                                                                                                              
Anchorage, AK 99501                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Candidate for Confirmation                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. William S. L. Walters                                                                                                       
93 Roxie Road                                                                                                                   
Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Candidate for Confirmation                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  RALPH   SEEKINS  called  the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to  order at 8:42:12 AM.  Present were Senators                                                             
Hollis French, Charlie Huggins, and Chair Seekins.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
^Confirmation Hearing: James J.  Fayette - Commission on Judicial                                                           
Conduct                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
8:42:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  announced the  first order of  business to  be the                                                               
confirmation hearing of  Mr. James Fayette. He  asked Mr. Fayette                                                               
the reason he consented to be nominated to the position.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE described his background  as a supervising prosecutor                                                               
at  the special  prosecutions  office of  the  Department of  Law                                                               
(DOL). Last  year he was  appointed by Governor Murkowski  to the                                                               
Judicial  Conduct   Commission  and  that   appointment  requires                                                               
confirmation  from  the  Senate.  He has  been  a  prosecutor  in                                                               
Anchorage  for  over  16  years.  He  attended  college  and  the                                                               
University  of Vermont  Law  School on  an  ROTC scholarship  and                                                               
served active duty  at Fort Richardson primarily  as the military                                                               
prosecutor. He joined the district  attorney's office in 1993 and                                                               
worked there for 11 years.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:44:47 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Gretchen Guess joined the committee.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FAYETTE handled  all  sorts of  cases  from misdemeanors  to                                                               
double  murders.  Last year  Mr.  Dean  Guaneli, Chief  Assistant                                                               
Attorney General  for the  Department of  Law (DOL),  offered him                                                               
the  special  prosecution  job  and  for the  past  year  he  has                                                               
supervised  an  eight-lawyer  office. The  office  handles  cases                                                               
involving police officer  misconduct, public official misconduct,                                                               
white-collar crime, and specialized fraud prosecutions.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:46:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. FAYETTE said he is  particularly proud of a recognition award                                                               
received from  Victims for  Justice for  his work  with Anchorage                                                               
Youth Corps.  He has been  interested in serving on  the Judicial                                                               
Conduct Commission  for some  time and was  pleased when  the Bar                                                               
Association nominated him.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
The  Judicial  Conduct  Commission   is  an  important  oversight                                                               
commission with the esteemed role  to ensure public confidence in                                                               
state court  judges and the judiciary  and court system. It  is a                                                               
nine  member  commission comprised  of  three  citizens that  are                                                               
appointed directly by the Governor,  three judges, elected by the                                                               
state  court  judges  themselves,  and  three  lawyers  that  are                                                               
apportioned geographically.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
The Judicial  Conduct Commission issues formal  advisory opinions                                                               
and often gives informal ethics  advise to state court judges and                                                               
state  court personnel.  The constitution  says  that the  Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court  can discipline, retire,  or censure a  state court                                                               
judge on  the recommendation of the  Judicial Conduct Commission,                                                               
and  that  is  its  most  significant  function.  The  Commission                                                               
handles complaints  against state  court judges, which  can range                                                               
from the mundane to the serious.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:49:12 AM                                                                                                                    
The commissioners  must be aware that  judges are held to  a high                                                               
level  of  professional conduct  and  there  are restrictions  on                                                               
their  activities that  other public  officials  don't have.  The                                                               
Commission deals  with a fairly  complex set of rules  of conduct                                                               
that  aren't always  clear. Judges  have to  be conscious  of the                                                               
fact that  a mere appearance  of impropriety  is often as  bad as                                                               
the actual  impropriety. Commissioners also have  to be sensitive                                                               
to the ease  at which a citizen can bring  a merit-less complaint                                                               
against a judge.  He said he believes he has  the background that                                                               
will enable him  to serve the Commission well.  Further, he feels                                                               
it  is important  that the  criminal  section of  the Alaska  Bar                                                               
Association has  a voice on  the Judicial Conduct  Commission. He                                                               
offered to answer questions.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:53:55 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HOLLIS  FRENCH  commented  he  worked  in  the  district                                                               
attorney's  office with  Mr.  Fayette and  that  Mr. Fayette  was                                                               
consistently in  the first  rank of the  prosecutors and  that he                                                               
brought energy, intelligence and creativity to the job.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR CHARLIE  HUGGINS asked  Mr. Fayette  to elaborate  on the                                                               
reason he received his award from Victims for Justice.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE said  while at the district attorney's  office he was                                                               
assigned to  the violent crimes  unit. Victims for Justice  had a                                                               
program  of  assisting homicide  family  survivors  to court.  He                                                               
interacted    frequently   with    the   Victims    for   Justice                                                               
representatives. What  immediately led to  the recognition  was a                                                               
1998 shooting in Eagle River. He  spent a lot of time with family                                                               
members   and  loved   ones.   The   murder  victim's   surviving                                                               
significant  other wrote  a nice  letter to  Victims for  Justice                                                               
nominating him for the annual award.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:57:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  the  process when  a  complaint is  brought                                                               
against a judge.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE  explained that  any citizen  could file  a complaint                                                               
against  a  judge. The  Commission  is  staffed by  an  executive                                                               
director  and  staff  investigator.  The  complaint  is  screened                                                               
informally  at  first.  Prior  to   the  quarterly  meeting,  the                                                               
executive   director  provides   the   commissioners  with   that                                                               
quarter's received  complaints, any underlying documents  and the                                                               
executive  director's quick  summation  of the  substance of  the                                                               
complaint(s). The  complaints are  segregated between  those that                                                               
are properly  before the  Commission and  those that  aren't. The                                                               
complaint  is  discussed and  a  vote  is  taken on  whether  the                                                               
complaint  is  dismissed  or  should   proceed  formally.  If  it                                                               
proceeds,  the  judge   might  be  brought  in   to  address  the                                                               
Commission. Then the matter may proceed or it may be dismissed.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:00:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked whether there was  a point at which there was                                                               
a finding of probable cause to proceed farther.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FAYETTE   said  the  complaint   would  proceed   to  formal                                                               
investigation  process, which  are public  proceedings. That  has                                                               
only happened a handful of times since statehood.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  whether the complaint that  does not proceed                                                               
to formal procedures was held confidential.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE said it was a  confidential matter. The reason is due                                                               
to the ease with which a complaint can be brought.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked who would be bound to the confidentiality.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE  answered it would  be members of the  Commission and                                                               
staff.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked whether  the  Commission  used a  procedure                                                               
manual.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:02:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. FAYETTE said yes. It  is on the Judicial Conduct Commission's                                                               
website. The Commission  has rules of procedure  and bylaws. They                                                               
are published  in the  Rules of Court  book, which  is circulated                                                               
amongst the Bar annually.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr.  Fayette the  kind  of instruction  and                                                               
preparation the staff provided for him.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:03:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Gene Therriault joined the committee.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. FAYETTE said the executive  director provided him with copies                                                               
of the  judicial canon and  the Commission's bylaws  and internal                                                               
rules.  He was  also provided  with materials  from the  American                                                               
Judicature  Society that  assists  conduct  commissions in  every                                                               
state.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr. Fayette  and committee  members whether                                                               
there  were  any  further  statements,  questions,  or  comments.                                                               
Hearing none,  he informed Mr.  Fayette his  recommendation would                                                               
be  forwarded to  the  President  of the  Senate.  This does  not                                                               
reflect  any  intent  of  any members  of  The  Senate  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee to  vote for or against  the individual during                                                               
any further session.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:05:20 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT  moved to  forward Mr.  Fayette's name  to the                                                               
Senate  President for  consideration during  a joint  session for                                                               
confirmations. Hearing no objections, the motion carried.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Chair Seekins announced a short recess at 9:05:51 AM.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
^Confirmation  Hearing:  William  S.L. Walters  -  Alaska  Public                                                           
Offices Commission                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                              
9:09:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS announced the confirmation  hearing for Mr. William                                                               
Walters to be up for consideration.  He asked Mr. Walters to give                                                               
a  brief  summation  of  the  reason he  aspires  to  be  on  the                                                               
Commission.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:09:46 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  WILLIAM WALTERS  introduced  himself and  said  he moved  to                                                               
Alaska  in 1981.  He attended  law  school at  the University  of                                                               
Texas  where   he  specialized  in  administrative   law.  He  is                                                               
presently  a  hearing  officer  with  the  Worker's  Compensation                                                               
Division for  the Department of  Labor and  Workforce Development                                                               
(DOLWD).  Previous  to that,  he  worked  for the  Tanana  Chiefs                                                               
Conference for six years. He  has served on several public bodies                                                               
including the  Fairbanks North Star  Borough Planning  and Zoning                                                               
Commission.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:11:38 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  WALTERS  explained  he  was   solicited  to  have  his  name                                                               
submitted  to   the  Governor  for  the   Alaska  Public  Offices                                                               
Commission  (APOC),   which  is  a  bipartisan   commission  that                                                               
oversees four different statutes and  a fifth modification of one                                                               
of the statutes. The Commission  consists of five members, two of                                                               
whom represent the  two parties that received  the largest number                                                               
of votes in the last  Gubernatorial election and the fifth member                                                               
is a public  member nominated by the current members.  He said he                                                               
would be pleased to serve on the Commission.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked Mr. Walters  to identify the  person or                                                               
body that approached him.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS said it was the Democratic Central Committee.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked whether there was an interview process.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS said no. He was merely asked to submit materials.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:13:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GRETCHEN   GUESS  asked  Mr.  Walters   whether  he  was                                                               
currently employed.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS said he currently works  as a hearing officer for the                                                               
Department  of Labor  and Workforce  Development  (DOLWD) in  the                                                               
Division of Worker's Compensation.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS asked MR. Walters his impression of APOC.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS hesitated  to speak firmly due to his  newness to the                                                               
Commission. He  said APOC is  fundamentally about  disclosure and                                                               
is not  a policing organization  except to the  necessary degree.                                                               
He said fundamentally it is doing what it is supposed to do.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:16:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  Mr.  Walters to  clarify  whether he  was                                                               
nominated by a political organization.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  said yes.  He was  one of  four persons  whose names                                                               
were chosen  to fill  an empty seat  and the  Governor ultimately                                                               
chose him.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  Mr.  Walters  whether he  felt  he had  a                                                               
partisan task.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS said no. His experience  is that the vast majority of                                                               
the time, the Commission rules  unanimously. There is no partisan                                                               
divisiveness within the Commission.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:18:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr. Walters  the background  information or                                                               
preparation that he was given before serving on APOC.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  said he was on  the Commission before the  staff was                                                               
allowed to  know of his  appointment. Once on the  committee they                                                               
provided him with  extensive information. He said  the staff does                                                               
a very good job supporting the Commission's work.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked Mr.  Walters  to  give  an example  of  the                                                               
process in a recent complaint brought before the Commission.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  reminded the committee  the proceedings  are matters                                                               
of  public record.  However,  he  hesitated to  speak  of any  in                                                               
particular, as they could be still in process or could recur.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Normally  the  Commission  staff  is  alerted  to  a  problem  by                                                               
discovering  a discrepancy  in records  that  are filed  or by  a                                                               
citizen complaint. A staff member is  assigned to sort it out and                                                               
rectify the matter if there is  a problem. If rectified, it might                                                               
not be  brought before the  Commission or it might  be informally                                                               
put on a consent agenda. It  would be only the decisions that are                                                               
of higher elevation that has to be looked at by the Commission.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr. Walters  and committee  members whether                                                               
there  were  any  further  statements,  questions,  or  comments.                                                               
Hearing none,  he informed Mr.  Walters his  recommendation would                                                               
be  forwarded to  the  President  of the  Senate.  This does  not                                                               
reflect  the  intent  of  any members  of  The  Senate  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee to  vote for or against  the individual during                                                               
any further session.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:23:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS moved  to forward Mr. Walters name  to the Senate                                                               
President   for  consideration   during  a   joint  session   for                                                               
confirmations. Hearing no objections, the motion carried.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Chair Seekins announced a brief recess at 9:24:23 AM.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  announced the final confirmation  hearing would be                                                               
postponed to a future date.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Seekins adjourned the meeting at 9:26:55 AM.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                

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