Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

02/12/2021 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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01:34:56 PM Start
01:36:02 PM SB14
03:05:31 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SB 14 SELECTION AND REVIEW OF JUDGES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Courts - TBA
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ COVID-19 Disaster Declaration, An Alternative TELECONFERENCED
Approach: Postponed
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
-- Public Testimony --
+ Confirmation Hearing TELECONFERENCED
<Item Above Removed from Agenda>
              SB 14-SELECTION AND REVIEW OF JUDGES                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:36:02 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD announced  consideration  of SENATE  BILL NO.  14,                                                              
"An  Act relating  to  the  selection  and retention  of  judicial                                                              
officers for  the court of appeals  and the district court  and of                                                              
magistrates;  relating  to the  duties  of the  Judicial  Council;                                                              
relating  to the  duties of  the Commission  on Judicial  Conduct;                                                              
and relating to retention or rejection of a judicial officer."                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:36:43 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY  MEADE, General  Counsel,  Alaska Court  System,  Anchorage,                                                              
Alaska,  spoke in  opposition to  SB 14  at the  direction of  the                                                              
Alaska Supreme  Court (ASC).  She remarked  that the ACS  normally                                                              
remained  neutral on  bills but  SB 14 falls  under the  exception                                                              
for  a bill  that would  materially affect  the administration  of                                                              
justice.  She summarized  that  in a  nutshell,  the court  viewed                                                              
this bill  as one  that would  undermine the  independence  of the                                                              
judiciary and  the public's  trust in the  court system.  It would                                                              
hinder the  ACS's ability to  handle cases effectively  and fairly                                                              
in  a  few  concrete  ways. She  reminded  members  that  she  was                                                              
speaking for  the Alaska Court  System and  not for the  other two                                                              
entities that reside  in the judicial branch, the  Alaska Judicial                                                              
Council  ["Judicial   Council"]and  the  Commission   on  Judicial                                                              
Conduct. The  courts rely on those  two entities and  highly value                                                              
their work but those entities are separate.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:38:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE  said  the  Judicial  Council  screens  applicants  for                                                              
judgeships  to make certain  the applicants  are highly  qualified                                                              
individuals suited  to be a  judge. The Judicial  Council performs                                                              
analyses  and  provides  information   when  a  judge  stands  for                                                              
retention  in   an  election  as   provided  for  in   the  Alaska                                                              
Constitution  and  Alaska  Statutes. The  Commission  on  Judicial                                                              
Conduct is solely  responsible for ensuring that  judges adhere to                                                              
the highest  judicial ethical standards  as reflected in  the Code                                                              
of  Judicial Conduct  that  judges must  and  do strictly  follow.                                                              
This  bill  would  move  and change  many  of  those  duties,  but                                                              
specific  questions about  those duties would  be better  directed                                                              
at those entities.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:38:47 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE highlighted  the most severe impacts  the Alaska Supreme                                                              
Court  views would  occur  if this  bill  should  pass. The  major                                                              
concerns the  ASC has  with SB 14  appear in  Sections 12  and 14.                                                              
Section  12 applies  to  how seats  on the  Court  of Appeals  are                                                              
filled when a  judge leaves state service, and  Section 14 applies                                                              
to how  District Court  and magistrate  positions are  filled. She                                                              
offered to address  magistrates later since novel  and overarching                                                              
issues separate  them from  judges. Under  this bill,  the current                                                              
merit selection  process enshrined in the Alaska  Constitution for                                                              
the Supreme and  Superior Courts would be replaced  by an entirely                                                              
different process  of seating  judges. The  new system  would make                                                              
politics  and  political  affiliation  a key  factor  for  seating                                                              
judges, she said.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:38:52 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE  said that  under SB  14, the  current merit  system for                                                              
naming  judges  would   be  replaced  with  the   system  used  in                                                              
Washington,  D.C. Because  the  court system  has  seen that  that                                                              
system  puts Washington  D.C.  judges squarely  in  the middle  of                                                              
party politics, and  that its process can be slow  and unfair, the                                                              
ASC opposes  moving Alaska's branch  of government closer  to that                                                              
system.  As  long  as the  Alaska  courts  have  existed,  lawyers                                                              
seeking to  be judges apply to  the Judicial Council.  The council                                                              
undergoes  a  thorough,  multi-step process  for  gathering  input                                                              
from  multiple sources  about that  person.  The Judicial  Council                                                              
analyzes all  information on  the applicant  that it can  unearth,                                                              
including  the person's  legal analytical  skills, suitability  of                                                              
past experience,  respect  afforded by their  peers and  character                                                              
traits  such as  humility, integrity,  temperament, and  fairness.                                                              
The  council  conducts  interviews,  holds  public  hearings,  and                                                              
finally  identifies  who  among  the  applicants  are  the  highly                                                              
qualified ones that  could serve Alaskans as a  judge. Those names                                                              
are  forwarded  to  the  governor  who  considers  the  names  and                                                              
conducts  whatever   research  he/she  wishes  to   consider,  and                                                              
finally appoints the new judge.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:41:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE referred  to page 5, lines  13-14 of SB 14,  which would                                                              
allow the  governor to appoint from  the list of fully  vetted and                                                              
qualified names  provided by the  Judicial Council "or  one person                                                              
who was  not nominated but is  qualified under AS  22.07.040." She                                                              
explained  that the qualifications  require  that the person  must                                                              
be a  U.S. citizen, an  Alaska resident, a  member of the  bar who                                                              
has practiced  law  for a certain  number of  years. The  governor                                                              
could appoint any  Alaska lawyer, even if the person  did not have                                                              
a high  level of  legal ability,  suitable experience,  integrity,                                                              
or  someone who  had a  background  that could  be troubling,  she                                                              
said.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:42:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE  referred to  page  5,  lines  14-15, which  read,  "An                                                              
appointment  made under this  section is  subject to  confirmation                                                              
by  a  majority  of  the  members  of  the  legislature  in  joint                                                              
session." She  referred to page 6,  lines 26 -27, which  read, "An                                                              
appointment  made under this  section is  subject to  confirmation                                                              
by  a  majority  of  the  members  of  the  legislature  in  joint                                                              
session."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE pointed  out that unlike cabinet members,  the bill says                                                              
the person  appointed cannot be  seated until after  confirmation,                                                              
which establishes  a statutorily built in delay  in seating judges                                                              
that  will directly  slow the  progress of  criminal cases.  These                                                              
changes  are  to  the courts  that  handle  criminal  appeals  and                                                              
misdemeanors.  These seats will  remain vacant  for up to  a year,                                                              
she said.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE  stated that  the confirmation  process can  go smoothly                                                              
or it can  go badly, depending on  the nature of the  office being                                                              
filled  and the  political dynamics  surrounding  that office  and                                                              
the  appointee.  Sometimes  confirmations  can be  acrimonious  or                                                              
unfair.   Just   look  at   what   recently  happened   with   the                                                              
confirmation  hearing in the  U.S. Senate, she  said. Many  of the                                                              
steps  required  of  an appointee  seeking  to  be  confirmed  are                                                              
incompatible with a  judge's ability and duty to  handle every new                                                              
case  with an  open  mind  and base  the  decision  solely on  the                                                              
existing  law and  facts that  apply  in the  particular case.  In                                                              
order to  make those  neutral and fair  decisions, a  judge cannot                                                              
within the  bounds of their code  of ethics have  made commitments                                                              
or made  representations about  what the judge  would do  with any                                                              
forthcoming issue.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:43:32 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE  said that if  the governor has  the ability  to appoint                                                              
any attorney  who has a certain  number of years of  practice, who                                                              
is confirmed  by the  legislature, it  means that some  appointees                                                              
will  never have  undergone a  thorough vetting  process like  the                                                              
one  the Judicial  Council currently  performs.  The factors  that                                                              
allow a person to  become a judge now will change  and be replaced                                                              
with  factors  that played  no  role  whatsoever in  the  Judicial                                                              
Council's  merit review,  such as party  affiliation and  possibly                                                              
political  contributions.  Those factors  would  become much  more                                                              
important  in  the  governor's appointment  decision  and  in  the                                                              
legislature's confirmation process.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE  said that  during  a  previous hearing  the  sponsor's                                                              
staff  indicated  that  the  legislature  "need  to  rein  in  the                                                              
judges"  somehow   because  the  judges  are  in   fact  political                                                              
already. And  even though  the courts covered  in this  bill don't                                                              
have any  jurisdiction over  the social  or political  issues that                                                              
seem  to be  causing  concerns recently,  the  other two  branches                                                              
should just  have more  control over  the judiciary. She  attested                                                              
that  the system  has  worked  well. In  the  60 plus  years  that                                                              
Alaska has  been a state,  it has not  had any judges  involved in                                                              
terrible  public  scandals or  had  to  resign in  disgrace.  Some                                                              
judges  have  been disciplined  for  various  transgressions,  but                                                              
none  have  been  criminal  in  nature,  and  none  have  unsavory                                                              
backgrounds  that have  been  uncovered. That  clear  record is  a                                                              
testimonial to  the thorough and  careful system, she  said. Every                                                              
aspect  of a judge's  character  and past has  been examined,  she                                                              
said.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:45:09 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE   said  that   to  make   these  judges   gubernatorial                                                              
appointees with  legislative confirmation  has the potential  that                                                              
judges will be  chosen like other appointees or  cabinet members -                                                              
with  an  eye  for  political alliances  or  a  certain  level  of                                                              
allegiance  with the governor.  She remarked  that before  this is                                                              
taken  as a  slight  or  anything  negative whatsoever,  it  makes                                                              
sense to  look realistically at  how governor appointments  go. If                                                              
you  would  think  a  Governor   Shower  would  appoint  the  same                                                              
individuals  as a  Governor Kiehl  would choose,  then this  makes                                                              
sense,   she  said.   Confirmation   would  depend   on  how   the                                                              
legislature was organized.  That is exactly how  politics work and                                                              
it is  perfectly okay.  Cabinet members  and advisors,  and boards                                                              
and  commission   members  are  intended  to  reflect   a  certain                                                              
ideology  and the  legislature's  political preferences.  However,                                                              
that system  would be  an infringement  on judicial  independence.                                                              
Currently  judges in  the court  system, which  is a separate  and                                                              
equal  branch of  government with  a mission  based on  neutrality                                                              
and fairness is  one that strives to be apart  from politics. That                                                              
is why the Alaska Supreme Court opposes SB 14, she said.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:46:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE  argued against politicizing  the court.  She emphasized                                                              
that the  goal, as  explicitly discussed  by  the drafters  of the                                                              
Alaska   Constitution,   is   to    have   as   little   political                                                              
consideration as  is humanly possible  to determine who  becomes a                                                              
judge. If  the complaint is that  the current selection  system is                                                              
already  political  the solution  is  not  to  replace it  with  a                                                              
system that  is patently and  inarguably even more  political, she                                                              
said. She  contended that  when litigants  appear in a  courtroom,                                                              
they should  not feel  disadvantaged or  advantaged by  whose side                                                              
the judge  is already on based  on the philosophy of  the governor                                                              
who appointed  the judge. She maintained  that the solution  in SB
14 would  certainly politicize  judges. New  judges would  clearly                                                              
and identifiably  be conservative  or liberal  dependent  upon the                                                              
political  affiliation  of  the  governor and  how  a  legislature                                                              
organizes, she said.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:48:01 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE  highlighted other  issues.  The  bill would  impose  a                                                              
vague  philosophical  litmus  test  that would  be  impossible  to                                                              
implement which will  be a deterrent to potential  applicants. The                                                              
selection  process for the  38 magistrate  positions would  change                                                              
to  governor  appointees.  These  magistrates  have  very  limited                                                              
jurisdiction  and  do not  handle  big constitutional  matters  or                                                              
ones with  serious  policy issues.  She argued  that there  is not                                                              
any  need to  do so.  She predicted  that  the ACS  would need  to                                                              
close  some  courts because  the  hurdles  the bill  imposes  will                                                              
cause people  not to  apply. The ACS  currently struggles  to fill                                                              
magistrate  positions. She  cautioned  that  moving the  retention                                                              
evaluations  to the  Commission  on Judicial  Conduct (CJC)  would                                                              
dilute the  focus of  this ethics commission.  The ACS  has valued                                                              
having the CJC focused solely on judicial ethics.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:49:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL  asked   for  a  follow  up  on   which  magistrate                                                              
positions that  would go unfilled.  He turned to the  litmus test,                                                              
noting  that the  terms  seem at  odds to  him,  yet the  Judicial                                                              
Council would  be bound  to only forward  applicants who  agree to                                                              
strict  constitutionalism and  abiding by  legislative intent.  He                                                              
asked  her  to  explain  these  philosophies  from  an  attorney's                                                              
perspective.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE explained  that this wording was not  found elsewhere in                                                              
the legal  realm. She  maintained  that it would  be difficult  to                                                              
implement  and applicants  would  not  understand  what they  were                                                              
agreeing   to.   She   explained    that   strict   constitutional                                                              
interpretation  means how  a person  interprets the  constitution,                                                              
but  she   did  not  know   what  was  meant  by   "constitutional                                                              
interpretation  of a statute  or regulation."  She explained  that                                                              
having  interpretation of  a statute,  if that  is what is  meant,                                                              
and adhering  to legislative intent  often contradict  each other.                                                              
This language will  raise questions about what that  means, how it                                                              
could  be applied  if  it can  be implemented,  and  just what  an                                                              
applicant would be agreeing to, she said.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:51:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  said she was not  surprised at the  ACS's position                                                              
on SB  14 since  maintaining the  status quo  is more  comfortable                                                              
than  change. She  noted  that those  who  convened  to write  the                                                              
Alaska  Constitution purposefully  did  not include  the Court  of                                                              
Appeals  or  magistrates  in  the  constitution  but  left  it  to                                                              
statute.  She said  she took  issue with  her statement  something                                                              
like "undermining  the independence  and the  public trust  of the                                                              
judiciary  branch. In  her experience  as  a legislator  attending                                                              
public meetings  and town  halls, people have  expressed a  lot of                                                              
distrust and  concern that the system  is lopsided. She  said when                                                              
she thinks  of the  checks and balances  in the U.S.  Constitution                                                              
and in the three  branches of government in Alaska,  she views the                                                              
back and  forth between the  executive branch and  the legislature                                                              
going both directions.  However, the only way the  legislature can                                                              
institute checks  and balances is through the  budget process, she                                                              
said. She  asked if any  other checks and  balances exist  for the                                                              
judiciary branch.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE answered  that the Alaska Constitution  does not address                                                              
the Court  of Appeals and  magistrates because neither  existed in                                                              
1959.  She pointed  out checks  and balances  for the  legislature                                                              
and the  judiciary currently exist.  If the legislature  disagrees                                                              
with a decision  made by an appellate court or a  trial court, the                                                              
legislature can overrule  the court by adjusting  the statutes and                                                              
clarifying  the language.  She acknowledged  that this happens  at                                                              
least  once  each  legislature.   She  offered  her  believe  that                                                              
Legislative  Legal   reviews  all  of  the  court   decisions  and                                                              
identifies the ones the legislature may need to address.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:54:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  interjected  that   she  did  not  view  this  as                                                              
overruling, but rather  as submitting to the court's  decision and                                                              
then changing the statutes.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE  said she has  seen wording in  bills that read,  "in an                                                              
attempt to  overrule this court  decision." She acknowledged  that                                                              
the legislature  cannot change  it to  apply retroactively  to the                                                              
parties  to the  litigation, but  the legislature  can change  the                                                              
statutes  to  explain  the  statutory  intent  more  clearly.  She                                                              
agreed the  legislature has  appropriation power. The  legislature                                                              
can take  the first step  toward constitutional changes.  However,                                                              
the  court is  limited to  its ability  to react.  The court  must                                                              
resolve  issues that  come before  the  court, including  election                                                              
cases. She said  she believes that people read  decisions and draw                                                              
conclusions  about  the judges  who  made  them. If  the  decision                                                              
ruled another way,  it is likely that the other side  would draw a                                                              
different conclusion,  she said. She contended that  judges decide                                                              
cases based  on exactly  what is  in front of  them and  decide if                                                              
something  violates  the  constitution  for  the  benefit  of  the                                                              
people.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:56:12 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE  recalled hearing Chair  Reinbold say on the  floor that                                                              
the  state  needs someone  to  say  if  a governmental  action  is                                                              
unconstitutional.  She  argued  that  the court  is  charged  with                                                              
determining it.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:56:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES maintained  her position that when  the legislature                                                              
takes  further  action  to  clarify  the  statutes,  it  is  still                                                              
accepting  the court's  ruling, which  does not  provide the  same                                                              
balance.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  turned to the politics.  She argued that  when the                                                              
Alaska Constitution  was  written, the politics  of attorneys  was                                                              
fairly  balanced.  She  offered   her  belief  that  lawyers  lean                                                              
towards the left.  She stated that some attorneys  who are members                                                              
of  the Alaska  Bar Association  have made  it clear  to her  that                                                              
getting an  appointment is unlikely  unless the appointee  is left                                                              
leaning. She  asked the  record to reflect  this. She  said, "I've                                                              
had attorneys  approach me  and agree  with bringing the  people's                                                              
branch into this process at least for these lower courts."                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:57:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR REINBOLD stated that Senator Showers is online.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:58:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE argued  that it  cannot  be true  because judges  whose                                                              
backgrounds that  could be viewed as quite conservative  have been                                                              
recommended  by  the  Judicial   Council  and  were  appointed  as                                                              
judges.  She said  she was  unsure if  something else  discouraged                                                              
the  person from  applying, because  the allegation  is not  borne                                                              
out by the facts.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:58:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD  said she  also  had  questions about  checks  and                                                              
balances  on the  judicial  branch. She  related  that during  her                                                              
time  in  the legislature,  laws  have  been  struck down  by  the                                                              
courts, including  one on parental rights on  abortion. She argued                                                              
that she  did not  see the  balance when  a judge can  arbitrarily                                                              
make a decision.  She compared it as similar to  what the governor                                                              
does. She  maintained that the question  to identify the  check on                                                              
the judiciary has not been answered.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:00:41 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE remarked  that she did not think that  she could respond                                                              
in a  way that would  satisfy the Chair  in terms of  the specific                                                              
parental  rights case  that was  mentioned.  She highlighted  that                                                              
some entity  in government  has to protect  the people  and uphold                                                              
the Alaska  Constitution when the  government does  something that                                                              
is  unconstitutional.  It  is  the   court's  role  to  make  that                                                              
decision.  The  court   does  not  make  the  decision   based  on                                                              
popularity  or on the  basis of  what the  majority of  the people                                                              
want  but based  on  what the  Alaska Constitution  provides.  She                                                              
explained  that  this  is  considered a  built  in  protection  so                                                              
unconstitutional laws do not take effect.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:01:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD referenced  her statement  that the  court was  to                                                              
protect  the people  and uphold  the constitution.  She asked  how                                                              
the  decision on  parental rights  protects people  when a  random                                                              
person can  take a girl  to get an  abortion without  the parent's                                                              
consent.  She said  the U.S.  Constitution provides  the right  to                                                              
life,  liberty and  the pursuit  of  happiness. She  said she  was                                                              
bewildered by the answer.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE  responded  that  the  constitution  provides  numerous                                                              
rights, including  due process,  the right  to privacy,  and equal                                                              
protection  all  come  into  play.  She  said  she  did  not  come                                                              
prepared to defend  the Alaska Supreme Court's  specific decision.                                                              
She offered to  discuss the case further. She  maintained that the                                                              
Alaska Supreme  Court ensures  that the  constitution is  followed                                                              
for  the  benefit of  all  Alaskans.  She  noted that  the  Alaska                                                              
Constitution is the supreme law of the state.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:02:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR REINBOLD  asked whether  she believes  that an unborn  child                                                              
has the right to life.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE responded  that she  was  not prepared  to answer  that                                                              
question in this forum.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:02:58 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL recalled  previous testimony  before the  committee                                                              
on   Justice   Douglas's   majority  decision   in   Griswold   v.                                                              
Connecticut.  That  decision acknowledged  that  citizens'  rights                                                              
emanate from the  penumbra of the rights contained  in the Bill of                                                              
Rights,  which indicates  how the  courts protect  the people.  He                                                              
related that  Ms. Meade has  articulated the separation  of powers                                                              
and  checks  and balances  that  emanates  from the  U.S.  Supreme                                                              
Court's  decision in  Marbury  v. Madison.  He  asked whether  the                                                              
drafters of  the Alaska Constitution  were aware of  that decision                                                              
and if it was altered.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE  responded  that she could  not speak  to the  drafters'                                                              
mindset but  it was  an 1803 decision  that provided  for judicial                                                              
review. Since  the Alaska  Constitution was  drafted in  1959, the                                                              
framers were  undoubtedly  aware of U.S.  Supreme Court  decisions                                                              
and U.S. constitutional provisions.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR KIEHL  asked whether  the drafters  altered the  framework                                                              
of judicial review.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE answered no.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:04:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES referred  to the litmus test mentioned  and judges'                                                              
duties  to  strict   adherence  to  the  constitution.   She  also                                                              
questioned what  strict adherence  to the statutes  might involve.                                                              
She  pointed out  that  judges will  refer  to the  intent of  the                                                              
legislature  with respect  to specific statutes.  Last March,  the                                                              
legislature  debated  on  the  Senate floor  and  decided  not  to                                                              
remove the requirement  of signatures being witnessed  on absentee                                                              
ballots in  light of  the pandemic.  A judge  struck that  down on                                                              
the constitutional  basis that people  have a right to  vote. Yet,                                                              
the [Alaska] Constitution  specifically says that  the methods for                                                              
absentee  voting  will  be  determined  by  law.  The  legislature                                                              
debated that  law and  left the  witness signature requirement  in                                                              
place. She characterized it as unilateral lawmaking.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE responded  she was  familiar with  the decision,  which                                                              
was  affirmed  unanimously  by  the  Alaska  Supreme  Court  (ASC)                                                              
shortly  thereafter.  She  explained   that  this  case  is  still                                                              
pending. She characterized  the decision as a 15  page decision of                                                              
well-reasoned  thorough  analysis.   The  decision  discussed  the                                                              
right to  vote and weighs it  against the burden that  was limited                                                              
to the  pandemic by  requiring two signatures.  She was  unsure if                                                              
legislative intent  was argued by  any of the attorneys.  She said                                                              
it is  difficult to  research floor  debate.  She argued that  the                                                              
ruling  was based  on the  constitution. Even  if the  legislature                                                              
wanted something  in place,  if it  offends the constitution,  the                                                              
intention  is   not  as   prime  in  the   hierarchy  of   law  as                                                              
constitutional  requirements. She offered  to further  discuss the                                                              
case off record.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:07:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES commented  that  KTOO provides  recordings of  the                                                              
Senate floor  debates. She  referred to  the Alaska Supreme  Court                                                              
15-page  decision mentioned  earlier.  She asked  if the  decision                                                              
mentioned the  constitutional provision  that specifically  stated                                                              
that the  methods for absentee voting  will be determined  by law.                                                              
She further asked  if the decision mentioned the  Senate's vote on                                                              
that matter.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. MEADE  offered to review the  decision and report back  to the                                                              
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:08:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   KIEHL  asked  how   SB  14   affects  currently   seated                                                              
magistrates or  if it only  applies to vacancies.  He specifically                                                              
asked what  happens to  the court  system's ability to  discipline                                                              
or fire  magistrates.  He offered  his view that  this bill  would                                                              
change those functions.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE  offered  to  research   it  and  report  back  to  the                                                              
committee in writing.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:09:21 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD  asked  the  record to  reflect  her  interest  in                                                              
checks and  balances for  the judicial  branch. She remarked  that                                                              
many people believe  that political activism occurs  in the court,                                                              
that  the  court  lacks  diversity  in  its  opinions  since  many                                                              
decisions  are  unanimous.  She  referred to  the  ASC's  decision                                                              
Senator  Hughes  mentioned. She  said  the governor  has  proposed                                                              
bills on  election integrity.  She asked  if judges could  testify                                                              
before the committee to answer questions.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE said  that was  not possible.  She  offered to  explain                                                              
Judge Crosby's  decision, but the  decision speaks for  itself and                                                              
provides the  legal reasoning. She  added that the  official court                                                              
record consists  of court  filings and  documents in writing.  She                                                              
said  that  the court  will  not  engage in  extraneous  comments,                                                              
explanations, or justifications on its decisions.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:10:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD affirmed  that someone  will not  come before  the                                                              
legislative  branch shows  the lack  of checks  and balances  as a                                                              
big concern.  The legislative branch  should be the  most powerful                                                              
one.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR REINBOLD  indicated she  would like to  meet with  Ms. Meade                                                              
to further discuss some of her concerns.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:11:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER  remarked that  he  expected opposition  from  the                                                              
court  system.  He referred  to  the  ASC's decision  on  absentee                                                              
ballot  signatures. He  offered  his view  that the  legislature's                                                              
intent was clear.  He recalled that the court  system historically                                                              
maintains  it is  unbiased  and neutral.  He  questioned why  this                                                              
neutrality  does not  extend to  legislators' ability  to vote  to                                                              
confirm  judges on  their  merits.  He asked  the  reason why  the                                                              
courts  can make  neutral  decisions  but the  legislature  cannot                                                              
make  decisions   on  nominees  without  it  "being   a  political                                                              
circus."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE  said  that  judges   have  training,  experience,  and                                                              
adherence to  the Code  of Ethics. Judges  are taught  and trained                                                              
to  apply the  law  to  the facts  of  a particular  case  without                                                              
taking into consideration  other matters. Through  the appointment                                                              
process, the  Judicial Council works  to ensure that  the nominees                                                              
will not let  personal views affect their future  decision making.                                                              
The  legislature,  during  confirmation   hearings  considers  the                                                              
political affiliation  of nominees  for boards and  commissions or                                                              
cabinet members. She  remarked that many votes are  along party or                                                              
caucus  lines.  It is  not  that  legislators  do not  care  about                                                              
merit, but  rather what happens  in the legislature  is political.                                                              
It is allowed to  be political and is more or less  designed to be                                                              
political,  she said.  Legislators  are elected  to represent  the                                                              
politics and  views of their  constituents, she said.  These views                                                              
are tied  to partisan  and political issues,  not in  any negative                                                              
way,  but   one  that   reflects  the   inherent  structure   that                                                              
necessarily involves political considerations.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:16:06 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD remarked  that legislators  are thoroughly  vetted                                                              
and are on  camera in the capitol.  She offered her view  that the                                                              
confirmation  process  in  SB  14  may  provide  more  checks  and                                                              
balances.  In terms  of Senator  Hughes's  concern, the  committee                                                              
cannot  rule  out  the  potential  of  political  vetting  in  the                                                              
selection   process.  She   remarked   that   many  lawyers   have                                                              
complained   to   her   about    the   hostile   environment   for                                                              
conservatives.  She maintained  her view  that it  does exist  and                                                              
her  intention to  hold a  hearing  on political  activism in  the                                                              
court.  She reiterated  that  many people  believe  that there  is                                                              
activism in the court.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:18:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR REINBOLD turned to the next invited testimony.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:18:37 PM                                                                                                                    
SUSANNE  DIPIETRO, Executive  Director,  Alaska Judicial  Council,                                                              
Alaska Court  System, Anchorage, Alaska,  stated that SB  14 would                                                              
make fundamental changes  to the way that judges  are selected and                                                              
evaluated for  retention. She explained  that the  merit selection                                                              
and  retention  process  were adopted  for  supreme  and  superior                                                              
court  judges  in  Alaska's  Constitution  as the  best  means  to                                                              
ensure a nonpartisan  and professional judiciary. In  fact, one of                                                              
the drafters  of the  judiciary  article said,  "We are trying  to                                                              
avoid  the travesties  which  we  have witnessed  in  some of  the                                                              
states  where judges  are  picked and  plucked  directly from  the                                                              
ward political office."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO advised  that the  Judicial Council  was created  to                                                              
play a  key role in  the selection of  those judges  by nominating                                                              
only the  most qualified  for appointment by  the governor.  SB 14                                                              
would   create   a   different    selection   procedure   with   a                                                              
gubernatorial  appointment with  legislature confirmation  for the                                                              
Court  of Appeals,  District Court  and  magistrate judges,  which                                                              
did not  exist at the  time the  Alaska Constitution  was drafted.                                                              
In deciding whether  to change the judicial selection  process, it                                                              
may be  helpful to  review how  the council  members nominate  the                                                              
most qualified applicants.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.   DIPIETRO  said   the  Judicial   Council's  procedures   are                                                              
transparent,  thorough, and  focused on merit.  First, to  achieve                                                              
transparency, the  council's procedures are posted  on its website                                                              
and provided  to all  applicants. The  council also publishes  the                                                              
criteria   it  uses   for  nominations.   Second,   in  terms   of                                                              
thoroughness,  the council members  review extensive  and detailed                                                              
information   about  each   applicant's   work  experience,   life                                                              
experience,  skills, ethics,  and  commitment  to public  service.                                                              
The council  members conduct a  public hearing and  interview each                                                              
and  every  applicant.  This evaluation  period  takes  about  six                                                              
months.  Third,  the  council  evaluates  each  applicant  against                                                              
merit-based   criteria,    including   professional    competence,                                                              
diligence,    administrative    skills,    integrity,    fairness,                                                              
temperament,   common   sense,    legal   and   life   experience,                                                              
demonstrated  commitment  to public  service,  equal justice,  and                                                              
the legal  needs of  the diverse communities  of Alaska.  She said                                                              
that council members  are specifically and explicitly  not allowed                                                              
to consider an applicant's religious or political affiliation.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. DIPIETRO  said another  hallmark of  the council's  process is                                                              
collegiality.  Members deliberate  independently  and  as a  group                                                              
and each  member is  given equal  time to  share his/her  thoughts                                                              
about each  applicant. Given the  rigor of the council's  process,                                                              
it is  not surprising  that members most  often agree  about which                                                              
applicants  are most  qualified, she  said. She  reported that  83                                                              
percent of  all council votes are  unanimous or unanimous  but for                                                              
one. The  Chief Justice  historically has  participated in  only 5                                                              
percent of all votes  and it is even rarer for  a Chief Justice to                                                              
break a  tie between  the attorney  and non-attorney members.  She                                                              
reported  that tiebreaker  votes have  happened in  less than  one                                                              
percent of all votes or only nineteen times in over 35 years.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:22:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO reviewed  the changes in SB 14 for  magistrates. This                                                              
bill would require  the council to screen, interview  and nominate                                                              
additional applicants  for magistrates each year.  She anticipated                                                              
this  would  likely  require more  targeted  outreach  to  attract                                                              
attorney  and  non-attorney applicants  for  magistrate  positions                                                              
since those positions can be difficult to fill.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO  turned  to  the changes  to  evaluation  of  judges                                                              
standing for  retention. The bill  would transfer these  duties to                                                              
the Commission  on Judicial  Conduct (CJD).  The Judicial  Council                                                              
has  been evaluating  judges since  1975.  The council's  approach                                                              
relies  in   significant  part   on  reviews  from   court  users,                                                              
including law  enforcement officers,  probation officers,  jurors,                                                              
court  employees and  members of  the public  and social  services                                                              
professionals.   The   council  investigates   judges'   published                                                              
opinions,  any  ethical problems,  disqualifications  from  cases,                                                              
compliance   with    financial   and   other    disclosure   laws,                                                              
professional  activities  and  if  a  judge's  paycheck  has  been                                                              
withheld  for untimely  decisions.  This information,  along  with                                                              
the  council's recommendation  on retention  is provided  directly                                                              
to the public via  the council's website. It is  summarized in the                                                              
lieutenant governor's official election pamphlet.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO reported  that  in the  past  several decades  court                                                              
users  have  given   increasingly  positive  reviews   of  judges'                                                              
performances  in   surveys  of  attorneys,  law   enforcement  and                                                              
probation  officers.  She  acknowledged that  in  rare  instances,                                                              
court users  have reported  significant problems  with a  judge or                                                              
the council's investigation  has revealed negative  performance or                                                              
ethics  issues. In  those instances,  the  council publicizes  the                                                              
negative information  and when warranted  it has  recommended non-                                                              
retention of a judge, she said.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:24:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  DIPIETRO  said  that  the  council  monitors  the  connection                                                              
between  the nominees  who  are  appointed and  their  performance                                                              
while serving  on the bench to  ensure that its  process continues                                                              
to be  based on  merit and  is nonpartisan.  She related  that the                                                              
Judicial Council  members come  from all  walks of life,  bringing                                                              
many  different  perspectives  and  experiences  to  the  council.                                                              
Despite  their apparent  differences,  the  principle that  unites                                                              
them is  an unwavering focus on  promoting a fair,  impartial, and                                                              
professional judiciary in Alaska.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:25:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR REINBOLD  acknowledged that  she has  seen diversity  on the                                                              
Judicial Council.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:25:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER asked  how the  court  system can  justify that  a                                                              
trade association  has the ultimate ability and  authority to pick                                                              
judges. He related  that the Alaska Bar Association  is allowed to                                                              
select judges. He  further remarked that 19 times in  35 might not                                                              
seem like  much, but  in all  those instances  the public  did not                                                              
have any  input. He expressed concern  that this does  not provide                                                              
any crosscheck by the public.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO  answered that  the  structure  was  set up  by  the                                                              
constitutional  founders. She said  the drafters held  discussions                                                              
on who  would serve on the  Judicial Council. First,  the drafters                                                              
wanted  to have  three attorney  members because  they would  know                                                              
"who  was good  and who  was  not." The  attorneys  would need  to                                                              
practice  under  these judges  so  the  reasoning was  that  these                                                              
attorneys would select  good judges. She said that  the Alaska Bar                                                              
Association  is  created by  law  and  undergoes a  sunset  review                                                              
periodically so the  legislature is involved in  that process. She                                                              
clarified that the  19 times that a Chief Justice  voted was 19 of                                                              
over 1,400 votes over a 35-year period.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:29:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KIEHL  referred to the 19  tiebreaking votes. He  asked in                                                              
how  many instances  that the  nominee supported  by the  attorney                                                              
members and the  Chief Justice was the governor's  only choice. He                                                              
also asked  for the number of times  all of the names  of nominees                                                              
were  forwarded  to  the  governor   were  selected  by  only  the                                                              
attorneys  and the Chief  Justice. In  terms of  the impact  of SB
14, he  asked for the  comparative workload  to screen a  judge or                                                              
magistrate for  selection versus  screening for retention  and how                                                              
that  would  affect  the commission's  workload.  He  expressed  a                                                              
willingness to receive the response in writing.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:30:26 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD said  legislators  are held  responsible by  their                                                              
constituents. She  maintained her position  on the lack  of checks                                                              
and  balances  for the  judiciary  and  the  lack of  an  adequate                                                              
response. She  remarked that it is  easy to be collegial  when the                                                              
judicial  nominees  are  chosen  by friends  and  when  the  Chief                                                              
Justice  can provide  a backup vote.  She characterized  it  as an                                                              
environment  that  works  in  many  cases  but  it  also  has  its                                                              
challenges.  She asked  if  deliberations  for judicial  selection                                                              
and retention  are completely  open to  the public. She  requested                                                              
copies of surveys from the past five years or something similar.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. DIPIETRO  deferred to  Ms. Greenstein to  discuss the  code of                                                              
ethical  conduct.  She  related   that  during  the  selection  of                                                              
judges, the  council holds public  meeting, and an  administrative                                                              
agenda, which  is also open  to the public.  She related  that any                                                              
applicant  could  request to  hold  his/her interview  in  public,                                                              
which  routinely  happens.  In  terms  of  judicial  retention,  a                                                              
statewide   teleconferenced   public   hearing  occurs   via   the                                                              
legislative  information  system.  She  characterized  this  as  a                                                              
critical component of the evaluation of judges.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:33:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD asked  again if  all proceedings  are open  to the                                                              
public.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. DIPIETRO, after  first clarifying the question,  answered that                                                              
significant portions  of the processes are open to  the public and                                                              
are posted  to the  council's website.  She listed the  materials.                                                              
In  further response  to  Chair Reinbold,  she  answered that  the                                                              
deliberations of the council are not open to the public.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:34:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR REINBOLD turned to invited testimony.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:35:20 PM                                                                                                                    
WES  KELLER,  representing  himself,  Wasilla,  Alaska,  said  the                                                              
judiciary  must work  with the  other two  branches of  government                                                              
and reflect  the value  of the voters.  He acknowledged  that some                                                              
level of  politics occurs  in the  legislative process.  He opined                                                              
that the legislature  has not used its authority  clearly given in                                                              
the  Alaska Constitution  to  shape  the judiciary.  He  suggested                                                              
that SB 14 will move that needle a little.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:37:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  KELLER expressed  concern  that problems  exist.  He read  an                                                              
excerpt  from  the  fifth  edition  of the  Guide  to  the  Alaska                                                              
Constitution on  page 93, Article  4, which defines  the judiciary                                                              
as follows, "The  judiciary is flexible and gives  the legislature                                                              
wide latitude  to expand and  shape the  system to meet  the needs                                                              
of   the  state.   The  delegates   anticipated   the  future   by                                                              
authorizing the legislature  to expand the court  system by adding                                                              
judges and creating new courts."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:39:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT   OGAN,   Staff,   Senator  Mike   Showers,   Alaska   State                                                              
Legislature,  Juneau,  Alaska,  said the  court  system  suggested                                                              
that this bill  would undermine the independence  of the judiciary                                                              
but some  might argue that the  judiciary is too  independent with                                                              
little accountability.  The  same system  of evaluating judges  is                                                              
done by the  people that nominated  them, he said. He  argued that                                                              
the Commission  on Judicial  Conduct was  a more appropriate  body                                                              
to  review  judges   since  it  holds  hearings   and  adjudicates                                                              
complaints.  The  commission  can   make  recommendations  to  the                                                              
Alaska Supreme  Court on  removal of judges.  He related  that the                                                              
commission consists  of six lawyers,  three of whom  are appointed                                                              
by the  Chief Justice,  and three are  subject to confirmation  by                                                              
the legislature.  The commission  also has  three public  members.                                                              
He suggested that  it is more appropriate for the  people who take                                                              
complaints to also evaluate nominees for judges.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:41:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OGAN said  that under the bill  the courts would be  more like                                                              
the Washington,  D.C. model,  implying that  the entire  judiciary                                                              
would be subject  to the legislature's whim. He  characterized the                                                              
bill  as  changing  a  small  segment  related  to  the  appellate                                                              
courts,  which  have  authority  over  criminal  matters  and  for                                                              
magistrates.  The  constitution says  that  all power  is  derived                                                              
from  the people.  However, the  Judicial Council  and the  Alaska                                                              
Bar  Association is  the  one "carve  out."  He expressed  concern                                                              
with the  nomination process since  the governor must  select from                                                              
the  names  the   Judicial  Council  forwards.  The   litmus  test                                                              
basically  would  require  nominees to  follow  the  constitution,                                                              
statutes and regulations  and to strictly interpret  them. He said                                                              
he hoped every judge  would do so. He did not  understand why that                                                              
would  be an  issue. In  closing, he  remarked that  he talked  to                                                              
several  conservative lawyers  but  they declined  to testify.  He                                                              
surmised  that   if  the  judiciary   were  so  impartial,   these                                                              
attorneys would not have declined to speak up.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:43:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL  asked to  hear  from  the Commission  on  Judicial                                                              
Conduct since the bill would affect the commission.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR REINBOLD  answered that Ms.  Greenstein would  be testifying                                                              
next.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:44:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MARLA  GREENSTEIN,  Executive  Director,  Commission  on  Judicial                                                              
Conduct, Anchorage,  Alaska, said that  she has held  the position                                                              
since 1989.  She has worked closely  with the Alaska  Court System                                                              
and the Judicial  Council. The commission has adapted  and adopted                                                              
procedures so the  work complements one another  and to streamline                                                              
their  functions. She  said the  major changes  proposed in  SB 14                                                              
would change how the commission conducts its business.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:45:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. GREENSTEIN said  the commission is charged  with enforcing the                                                              
code of  judicial conduct,  which is  the code  of ethics  for the                                                              
judiciary.   The  commission   is   composed   of  nine   members,                                                              
consisting  of three  judges,  three  attorneys and  three  public                                                              
members.  These   members  each  bring  a  unique   and  important                                                              
perspective  in  analyzing ethical  issues  that  come before  the                                                              
commission.  The commission meets  four times  a year.  The office                                                              
consists  of a  two-member administrative  staff but  it can  hire                                                              
outside  counsel since  it  is an  adjudicative  body. The  office                                                              
investigates complaints,  and the  nine-member commission  sits to                                                              
adjudicate  the complaint.  Outside  counsel is  hired to  present                                                              
the matters to the commission.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:47:39 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. GREENSTEIN  said another function  she provides is  to respond                                                              
to judges  and provide ethical  advice. She explained  that judges                                                              
know they  can call or email  her with questions. Her  response is                                                              
timely because  judges often  must determine  if they  must recuse                                                              
themselves from  taking cases. Judges  may be asked to  speak to a                                                              
group  and  need to  know  if it  is  appropriate  to  do so.  She                                                              
characterized  this as  an  important function.  She  said she  is                                                              
proud  that the commission  has  earned the trust  of the  judges.                                                              
Judges know  they can be forthright  and that the matters  will be                                                              
held in strict  confidence. She highlighted one fear  of taking on                                                              
the retention function  is that it could jeopardize  that informal                                                              
trust  and guidance.  It may  appear that  the commission  already                                                              
performs evaluations.  The constitutional  name of the  commission                                                              
was  the Judicial  Qualifications  Commission,  but  the name  was                                                              
changed because  it did  not accurately  reflect the  commission's                                                              
work.  Instead,  the  Commission   on  Judicial  Conduct  performs                                                              
ethics enforcement  and ethical guidance  but it does  not conduct                                                              
job  evaluations.  Job evaluations  consist  of a  very  different                                                              
type of process.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GREENSTEIN  estimated  that  if the  commission  were  to  do                                                              
judicial retention  evaluations, it  would require two  additional                                                              
staff and additional  office space and one additional  meeting per                                                              
year. In  addition, the  legislature obviously  separated  out the                                                              
judicial retention  and judicial  ethics functions.  One provision                                                              
in   the   governing   statute   states   that   no   member   can                                                              
simultaneously sit  on the Commission on Judicial  Conduct and the                                                              
Judicial Council. Thus,  there was some awareness of  the need for                                                              
the separate functions, she said.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:51:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER  asked  if  her   concern  with  SB  14  was  with                                                              
additional costs to her agency to accomplish the evaluations.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GREENSTEIN  answered  that  the  resources  she  referred  to                                                              
related  to  the  evaluation for  retention.  She  estimated  that                                                              
adding  the ethical  responsibilities  for  magistrates would  not                                                              
require an  additional fulltime  position. She explained  that she                                                              
developed  the  costs  based  on  the  retention  evaluation.  She                                                              
suggested  that  if  the  commission  only  had  to  consider  the                                                              
ethical responsibilities  for magistrates it would  likely require                                                              
one additional  part-time staff since  it would almost  double the                                                              
number  of  judges whose  ethics  the  agency would  oversee.  She                                                              
anticipated  that it might  result in  more frequent  disciplinary                                                              
hearings.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR SHOWER  offered to follow-up  with Ms. Greenstein  on this                                                              
issue.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:53:02 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  REINBOLD  asked  that  the estimates  be  provided  to  the                                                              
committee. She  also asked her to  provide the Code of  Ethics for                                                              
magistrates to  the committee. She  expressed an interest  to have                                                              
the committee attend a Commission on Judicial Conduct hearing.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. GREENSTEIN  pointed out that  each of the commission  meetings                                                              
has  a public  component.  The commission  has  been holding  Zoom                                                              
meetings. She  agreed to arrange  for the committee to  attend the                                                              
public portion of the commission meeting.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:54:57 PM                                                                                                                    
FRITZ  PETTYJOHN,  representing  self, Anchorage,  Alaska,  stated                                                              
that  he is  a former  legislator  and has  been a  member of  the                                                              
Alaska Bar  Association (ABA)  since 1974.  He questioned  why the                                                              
ABA has  control over  the judicial system  in Alaska.  He offered                                                              
his view that  the lawyers who wrote the Alaska  Constitution were                                                              
"feathering their  own nests" to ensure control  over the judicial                                                              
branch. He  asserted that  it has  been a profitable  arrangement.                                                              
He disagreed  that one professional  association should  have that                                                              
power. He  stated that SB  14 is an  advancement, but in  order to                                                              
fully  address the  issue it  would  require an  amendment to  the                                                              
constitution,  which would  require  a constitutional  convention.                                                              
He urged members to seriously consider that option.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:56:55 PM                                                                                                                    
LINDA HOLMSPROM,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  spoke in                                                              
support  of  SB  14. She  expressed  concern  that  currently  the                                                              
governor  fills positions  to the  Court of  Appeals and  District                                                              
Courts by  selecting from  a small list  of nominees  submitted by                                                              
the Alaska  Judicial Council. This  bill would allow  the governor                                                              
to select  any attorney  who meets  the legal qualifications.  She                                                              
emphasized that  this would  allow elected officials  representing                                                              
their constituents  to have a voice rather than  unelected members                                                              
of  the  Alaska  Judicial  Council.  She  expressed  concern  over                                                              
political activism in the courts.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:59:55 PM                                                                                                                    
KENNETH JACOBUS,  Attorney, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,                                                              
said he has been  an attorney in Alaska for over  50 years. He has                                                              
carefully observed  the process and  has seen it improve  over the                                                              
years. He  offered his view  that it is  the best it's  ever been.                                                              
He  suggested several  changes  to  the bill.  First,  he did  not                                                              
support moving  the nomination process  from the  Judicial Council                                                              
to the  Commission  on Judicial  Conduct. The  CJC deals with  the                                                              
judges  once they  are serving  on  the bench.  He suggested  that                                                              
doing so  would confuse the  whole system. Secondly,  he suggested                                                              
going  through  the  selection   process  but  adding  legislative                                                              
confirmation  in  joint  session  just  as  the  federal  approval                                                              
process  requires. Finally,  he recommended  removing language  in                                                              
SB 14 that  states that the  Judicial Council can submit  the name                                                              
of a candidate  only if the  Judicial Council determines  that the                                                              
judicial  candidate   understands  and  is  committed   to  strict                                                              
constitutional  interpretation  of  statutes and  regulations  and                                                              
adhering  to legislative  intent. He said  the legislature  should                                                              
not set  up political  standards for what  the judge  will decide,                                                              
especially  since interpretation  of statutes  and regulations  is                                                              
not necessarily under  strict scrutiny. He said,  "That's bad. You                                                              
can't select  a person unless the  person's beliefs are  a certain                                                              
way or he  is going to construe  the law in a certain  way. That's                                                              
not our  job to tell  the judge  what he is  supposed to  do, what                                                              
sort of  decisions are supposed  to be made  when they are  on the                                                              
bench."  He said  he agreed  with Mr.  Pettyjohn that  it is  most                                                              
important to  have legislative oversight  over the  Superior Court                                                              
and  the Alaska  Supreme Court  so a  constitutional amendment  is                                                              
necessary.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:02:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER offered  to speak to him about  his suggestions. He                                                              
expressed a willingness  to hear suggestions to  improve the bill.                                                              
He  remarked that  many of  the  testifiers pointed  out that  the                                                              
constitution  is a  well  vetted document.  If  so, the  authority                                                              
granted  in  the  Alaska  Constitution   to  the  legislature  for                                                              
oversight should also be good, he said.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR REINBOLD said  that public testimony will be  kept open. She                                                              
welcomed testimony at sjud@akleg.gov.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
[SB 14 was held in committee.]                                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 14 - Sponsor Statement.pdf SJUD 2/12/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 14
SB 14 Bill.PDF SJUD 2/12/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 14
SB 14 Sectional Analysis.pdf SJUD 2/12/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 14
SB 14 ACJC Brochure.pdf SJUD 2/12/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 14