Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

02/11/2022 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled:
Moved CSSB 119(JUD) Out of Committee
<Bill Hearing Postponed from Feb 9>
Moved CSSB 129(JUD) Out of Committee
        SB 129-ELECTION PAMPHLET INFORMATION RE: JUDGES                                                                     
1:55:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   HOLLAND  reconvened   the  meeting   and  announced   the                                                               
consideration  of  SENATE  BILL  NO.  129  "An  Act  relating  to                                                               
information   on   judicial   officers   provided   in   election                                                               
[SB 129 was previously heard on 5/5/21, 1/28/22, 2/2/22, and                                                                    
2/9/22. Public testimony was opened and closed on 1/28/22.                                                                      
Amendments 1,2, and 3 were considered on 2/9/22.]                                                                               
1:56:18 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
1:57:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND reconvened the meeting.                                                                                           
1:57:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES moved to adopt Amendment 4, work order 32-                                                                       
                          AMENDMENT 4                                                                                       
     OFFERED IN THE SENATE                    BY SENATOR HUGHES                                                                 
     TO:  CSSB 129(JUD), Draft Version "O"                                                                                      
     Page 2, following line 30:                                                                                                 
          Insert a new subparagraphs to read:                                                                                   
               "(I)  a description of previous political                                                                    
         and governmental positions held by the judge,                                                                      
     including any political office held;                                                                                   
               (J)  a description of the judge's primary                                                                    
        practice areas before appointment, including the                                                                    
     approximate percentage of the judge's pre-appointment                                                                  
     career spent as a trial lawyer;                                                                                        
               (K)  a description of the types of clients                                                                   
     the judge represented before appointment;"                                                                             
     Page 3, line 1:                                                                                                            
          Delete "(G), and (H)"                                                                                             
          Insert "and (G) - (K)"                                                                                            
          Delete ";"                                                                                                        
          Insert   "[SHALL   CONTAIN   A   BRIEF   STATEMENT                                                                    
     DESCRIBING  EACH PUBLIC  REPRIMAND, PUBLIC  CENSURE, OR                                                                    
     SUSPENSION RECEIVED BY  THE JUDGE UNDER AS 22.30.011(d)                                                                    
     DURING  THE   PERIOD  COVERED  IN  THE   EVALUATION.  A                                                                    
     STATEMENT MAY NOT EXCEED 600 WORDS]."                                                                                      
     Page 3, lines 2 - 14:                                                                                                      
          Delete all material.                                                                                                  
CHAIR HOLLAND objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                 
1:58:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES explained  that Amendment 4 would  require a judge                                                               
standing for  retention to provide  the same information  for the                                                               
voter  pamphlet, whether  it is  their first  retention election,                                                               
their third, or  fourth one. First, the more  information a voter                                                               
has  is   helpful.  Second,  if   it  is  possible  to   fit  the                                                               
biographical and performance information  for the first retention                                                               
election,  it  should  be  possible   for  subsequent  ones.  She                                                               
suggested  that doing  so  would create  less  confusion for  the                                                               
voters. Otherwise,  voters would review the  judges for retention                                                               
elections  and  wonder  why  specific  information  was  omitted.                                                               
Third, she  said the jobs,  positions, and education  that shapes                                                               
judges before  becoming judges is  relevant since what  shapes us                                                               
remains   constant  throughout   life.  For   example,  childhood                                                               
experiences shape a person, and  it remains so whether the person                                                               
is  25 or  65 years  old. Therefore,  voters need  to consider  a                                                               
judge's  pre-judicial work,  whether  they held  a government  or                                                               
political position,  and the  specific area  of law  the judicial                                                               
candidate  had  practiced.  She   emphasized  that  this  remains                                                               
relevant background information throughout their tenure.                                                                        
SENATOR  HUGHES  related  a  scenario  to  illustrate  this.  She                                                               
explained that a  superior court judge appears on  the ballot for                                                               
retention election  every six years. She  highlighted that nearly                                                               
30  percent of  Alaska's population  is  new to  the state  every                                                               
election. New voters will not  have the background information on                                                               
judges on  the retention ballot  unless it is  provided. Further,                                                               
she  questioned whether  the average  person  would recall  prior                                                               
judicial retention election information.                                                                                        
2:01:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MYERS,  speaking as  sponsor,  said  he appreciated  the                                                               
spirit in  which Amendment 4  was offered, which fits  the bill's                                                               
spirit.  He   said  his  objection   to  Amendment  4   was  more                                                               
administrative  because the  space  in the  election pamphlet  is                                                               
limited. He highlighted  that the goal was to  provide the voters                                                               
with information,  specifically the most  applicable information.                                                               
He  expressed concern  that  including  personal or  professional                                                               
endeavors that  occurred before the  person became a  judge might                                                               
mean not  providing more relevant  information. For  example, the                                                               
description of  the continuing legal  education acquired,  or any                                                               
disciplinary  proceedings might  be  relevant to  voters. As  Ms.                                                               
DiPietro mentioned,  the council  might provide  some information                                                               
for some  judges in the pamphlet  but not for others.  He said he                                                               
hoped that would prompt some voters  to go to the Alaska Judicial                                                               
Council's website to obtain more information.                                                                                   
2:03:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER   agreed  with   Senator  Hughes'   sentiment  in                                                               
Amendment 4, but pointed out that  currently, the bill has a zero                                                               
fiscal note.  He expressed concern  that if the  committee pushes                                                               
for more  information, it  will increase the  number of  pages in                                                               
the  voter pamphlet,  increase the  council and  division's work,                                                               
and  increase   costs.  This  concerns  him   because  a  Finance                                                               
Committee referral might mean the  bill would never get a hearing                                                               
and could die.  He offered his view that the  bill in its current                                                               
form works. He  stated that while this is a  good idea, he cannot                                                               
support Amendment 4.                                                                                                            
CHAIR  HOLLAND  said  he  was aligned  with  Senator  Shower.  He                                                               
offered  his  view that  SB  129  greatly improves  the  process.                                                               
Although Amendment  4 is not a  bad idea, he was  concerned about                                                               
what the changes would cost. He maintained his objection.                                                                       
SENATOR HUGHES offered her view  that the space and cost concerns                                                               
were  not valid.  First,  in  terms of  space,  the business  and                                                               
professional  positions held  the preceding  10 years  would drop                                                               
off over  time and leave room  for the items listed  in Amendment                                                               
4. Second,  nothing in Amendment  4 would trigger a  fiscal note.                                                               
The  judges' information  provided to  the Division  of Elections                                                               
and  the Alaska  Judicial Council  (AJC) for  the first  judicial                                                               
retention election fits on one page.                                                                                            
SENATOR HUGHES  reiterated that more voter  information is better                                                               
than less  for the sake of  new Alaskans and for  those who might                                                               
not  recall  information  provided   at  a  prior  election.  She                                                               
surmised that AJC does not  want earlier political and government                                                               
affiliations as part of information.  However, she maintained her                                                               
view that  having information before  and throughout  the judge's                                                               
career was relevant for voters.                                                                                                 
2:07:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND maintained his objection.                                                                                         
2:08:03 PM                                                                                                                    
A roll  call vote  was taken.  Senator Hughes  voted in  favor of                                                               
Amendment  4,  and Senators  Myers,  Kiehl,  Shower, and  Holland                                                               
voted against it. Therefore, Amendment 4 failed on a 1:4 vote.                                                                  
CHAIR HOLLAND stated  that Amendment 4 failed on a  vote of 1 yea                                                               
and 4 nays.                                                                                                                     
2:08:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1.                                                                            
     On page 2, lines 21-22 of SB 129, Delete all material                                                                      
     and insert:                                                                                                                
               "(F)  the number of decisions by the judge                                                                       
     that  were  reviewed  and  disposed  of  by  a  written                                                                    
     decision  of  an  appellate court,  the  percentage  of                                                                    
     issues  in those  decisions that  were affirmed  by the                                                                    
     appellate court."                                                                                                          
SENATOR SHOWER objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                
2:08:58 PM                                                                                                                    
ED KING, Staff, Senator Roger  Holland, Alaska State Legislature,                                                               
Juneau,  Alaska, explained  Conceptual Amendment  1 on  behalf of                                                               
Senator Holland.  First, he described an  amendment the committee                                                               
considered  at  its  last  meeting.  Senator  Holland  previously                                                               
offered and  withdrew Amendment 2,  work order  32-LS0751\O.6, on                                                               
February  9, 2022.  The  discussion on  the  current language  in                                                               
subparagraph (F)  highlighted that the  courts might not  be able                                                               
to  provide that  information. The  sponsor of  SB 129  expressed                                                               
concern  that  the   information  in  Amendment  2   may  be  too                                                               
voluminous and  requested that  the second  half be  removed. The                                                               
Alaska  Judicial Council  considered  the  request and  suggested                                                               
using  language  from  Amendment  2. So  Conceptual  Amendment  1                                                               
contains  the language  in  the  first half  of  Amendment 2.  He                                                               
stated that  the sponsor  could elaborate more  on the  effect of                                                               
the language in Conceptual Amendment 1.                                                                                         
2:10:05 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MYERS  said  he supported  the  language  in  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 1,  which he  viewed as  a technical  clarification. He                                                               
reiterated Mr.  King's explanation, adding that  his concern with                                                               
the  previous amendment  related to  the amount  of verbiage  AJC                                                               
might  use  to  explain  affirmance   or  other  performance.  He                                                               
suggested that perhaps  the Judicial Council and  the Division of                                                               
Elections  could provide  half a  page  at the  beginning of  the                                                               
judicial retention  section of  the election  pamphlet explaining                                                               
the  different   ratings  and  some  background   information  on                                                               
affirmance rates.  However, he preferred  not to address  that in                                                               
2:11:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SUSANNE  DIPIETRO, Executive  Director, Alaska  Judicial Council,                                                               
Alaska  Court  System,  Anchorage,  Alaska,  responded  that  the                                                               
Alaska  Judicial  Council  does  not   have  an  opinion  on  the                                                               
2:11:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked whether the  Alaska Judicial Council and the                                                               
Division of  Elections could provide explanatory  information for                                                               
judges  up  for  retention  election   or  if  it  would  require                                                               
statutory authority for them to do.                                                                                             
MS. DIPIETRO responded  that she would need to  discuss this with                                                               
the  Division  of   Elections  since  she  was   unaware  of  the                                                               
constraints the division  has on the election  pamphlet length or                                                               
space. She  assured members that  the council would  explore this                                                               
with the division.                                                                                                              
2:12:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked  for any disadvantages voters  would have if                                                               
Amendment  2  was adopted,  and  they  read the  affirmance  rate                                                               
without having  an explanation in  the pamphlet. She  wondered if                                                               
it would mislead the voters.                                                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO answered that AJC  always provides the percentage of                                                               
decisions affirmed in  context. AJC posts a memo  on its website,                                                               
approximately  10-11   pages  in  length,   providing  historical                                                               
averages compared to  all judges, not just the ones  in the voter                                                               
pamphlet  standing for  retention  in order  to provide  context.                                                               
This contextual  information highlights  the significance  of the                                                               
percentage  so voters  can determine  if  a judge  is within  the                                                               
performance range  of other judges  with similar caseloads  or if                                                               
they  rank  lower  or  higher.   AJC  has  always  provided  this                                                               
information with  a significant amount of  context. She suggested                                                               
that AJC, in consultation with  the division, would recommend and                                                               
prefers  providing any  context  that fits  within the  statutory                                                               
limit  and  the  division's logistical  issue.  This  information                                                               
helps voters to understand what the numbers mean.                                                                               
2:14:50 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER  stated that voters currently  receive substantial                                                               
campaign information  during the election  and are told  that the                                                               
statutory changes contemplated were  easily remedied by educating                                                               
the voters. For example, ranked-choice  voting is supposedly easy                                                               
for  voters  to understand,  but  during  the committee  hearings                                                               
members  found  otherwise. He  offered  his  view that  directing                                                               
voters to a  10 - 11-page document would not  be easier for them.                                                               
Amendment  2   would  concisely  put  the   judicial  performance                                                               
information in  the voter pamphlet  rather than  expecting voters                                                               
to  interpret   or  distill  the   data  from  a  10   -  11-page                                                               
2:15:46 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MYERS said AJC currently  provides the survey ratings but                                                               
not the appeal  rates. The survey polls  jurors, law enforcement,                                                               
and others  about judicial performance.  He highlighted  that the                                                               
spirit of  the bill  was to give  voters enough  information, not                                                               
overwhelm  them,  or  take  up   too  much  space  in  the  voter                                                               
pamphlets.  He   stated  he  intended  to   omit  the  affirmance                                                               
information.  He envisioned  that most  voters could  compare the                                                               
judges'  affirmance rates  and  ascertain if  one  was ranked  15                                                               
percent lower. He  understood AJC's point that  the council would                                                               
provide  some context.  For  example, a  voter  might review  the                                                               
voter pamphlet for judges up  for judicial retention and see that                                                               
one  judge was  50 percent  lower  than the  others. Although  he                                                               
understood  Ms. DiPietro's  point,  he believes  some context  is                                                               
provided, and since the pamphlet  has space limitations, he would                                                               
like to give voters a broader range of information.                                                                             
2:17:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER offered  his belief that voters  won't dig through                                                               
a 10-11 page document, so Conceptual Amendment 1 makes sense.                                                                   
2:17:52 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  stated that Conceptual  Amendment 1  would remove                                                               
the explanation  about judicial affirmance  rates and  replace it                                                               
with a percentage.  She expressed her preference.  She would like                                                               
AJC to  provide a  little explanation to  ensure the  voters have                                                               
enough information.  Although she is comfortable  with Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 1, she  would like to hear from Ms.  DiPietro after she                                                               
consults with  the division. She  suggested that the  sponsor may                                                               
need to consider a floor amendment to address this.                                                                             
2:20:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HOLLAND  asked  if  the committee  should  hear  from  Ms.                                                               
DiPietro first.                                                                                                                 
2:20:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MYERS said he would like  to consider it. He related that                                                               
this bill has one more committee  referral before it heads to the                                                               
floor, so it's possible to amend  it, if needed. However, he said                                                               
he didn't think it would be necessary to do so.                                                                                 
2:21:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES responded that it works  for her. She said she did                                                               
not realize that the bill had one more committee of referral.                                                                   
2:21:37 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
2:21:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND reconvened the meeting.                                                                                           
2:22:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER removed his objection.                                                                                           
CHAIR  HOLLAND   heard  no   further  objection,   so  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                                        
SENATOR MYERS thanked the committee for  its work on the bill. He                                                               
stated the  goal of the  bill is  to provide voter  education, by                                                               
ensuring  that voters  have  additional  information on  judicial                                                               
retention elections.                                                                                                            
2:23:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER  moved to report  SB 129, work  order 32-LS0751\O,                                                               
as amended,  from committee  with individual  recommendations and                                                               
attached fiscal note(s).                                                                                                        
CHAIR HOLLAND found no objection,  and CSSB 129(JUD) was reported                                                               
from the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 23 Letter of Support - AGC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alaska Chamber.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - RDC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - CAP.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alliance.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
RDC SB 23 Comment letter 2-11-22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB23 - Letter of Support - APF.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 119 SJUD Amendment G.2.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 119
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.5.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.6 as amended.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 23 Public Testimony through 2.12.22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 118 SJUD Public Testimony.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 118