Former judge says Alaska should keep politics out of judicial selection process

Former Alaska judge Elaine Andrews believes the state has one of the best processes for selecting judges in the country — and she’d like to keep it that way.

“It is among the most transparent in the nation,” Andrews said during the March 1 meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce at the ER Ale House. “It is an amazing thing.”

Rather than having elected judges, Alaska’s system relies on a “merit based” system, Andrews explained. She explained that the authors of the Alaska Constitution didn’t want the judicial selection process to be overly political, so they installed a system in which the Alaska Judicial Council reviews and selects potential judges.

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League of Women Voters of Alaska support merit-based judicial selection and retention process

Over the past three years, Alaskan organizations, newspapers and individuals have come out in opposition to proposed constitutional amendments that would politicize the state’s merit-based judicial selection and retention system. Organizations in opposition include the Alaska Federation of Natives, (AFN), the Alaska AFL-CIO, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and the ANCSA Regional Association (which represents the CEOs of the 12 land-based Alaska Native regional corporations and the president of AFN). Newspapers publishing editorials against proposed changes to the state’s judicial selection and retention system include the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and the Ketchikan Daily News. On Jan. 11, 2016, after a several month study, the League of Women Voters of Alaska adopted a position statement supporting Alaska’s merit-based judicial selection and retention system as established in the state constitution. For more information on why Alaskans support the current system, considered one of the finest in the U.S., visit our Opinions & Resources page.

LWVAK-Position-Statement- Alaska-Judiciary (pdf)

Walter Carpeneti: Our judicial system works

Alaska’s former Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court talks about Alaska’s judicial system and how judges are selected and retained.