As a lawyer often involved in election disputes, I understand more than most the difference between strongly-held political views and the demands of the rule of law. They are quite different, yet many would have us confuse them, suggesting that politics should overrule the law and facts of a given case. To me, this approach makes judges beholden those with political power, not the oath they take to uphold the law.
If Alaskans want judges who are as strong and independent as the Alaskans they serve, then they have an obligation to recognize the threat that special interests can have on fair and impartial courts. I want to be judged by judges who have the courage to apply the law.
As a lifelong Alaskan, I am proud that Alaska’s judges embody the highest principles of their calling. Alaskans benefit from judges who are fair, impartial and independent, and who look only to the law for guidance in their decision-making, without regard to political winds or ideological pressures from any direction.
Alaskans expect judges to decide cases based on the law, not on political agendas or personal beliefs. The merit system for selecting judges — created by our Alaska Constitution — produces judges who meet those expectations: fair judges who follow the law in deciding cases.
My work as an attorney sometimes took me across the country, and I came to greatly appreciate Alaska’s merit system for selecting – and retaining – judges. It has ensured Alaskans that our judges remain focused on making decisions that are based on the law, without fear of reprisal from political or special interests. Alaskans deserve independent, fair judges who follow the law regardless of pressure to do otherwise.
As a retired lawyer and former businesswoman, I recognize the vital importance of courts that honor our basic rights and freedoms, however controversial. Unlike political fortunes, which change constantly, the fundamental principles that courts uphold must survive political storms or be rendered meaningless. Judges who defend these principles in the face of public clamor should be supported, not lose their jobs.”
My mother worked in the court system, and through her, I learned a lot about the Alaska court system. As an adult, I came to appreciate the quality of the judges who serve on our courts. Our Constitution ensures that our judges are independent from political pressures and partisan ideals. Independent judges assure us that cases will be decided fairly and according to the law. As a lifelong Alaskan, I want to protect judicial independence, which will protect the future of Alaska and our way of life
After serving as a judge in Alaska for 31 years I recently realized that I know little to nothing about my fellow judges’ personal political beliefs or values. When judges are doing their work they decide their cases based only upon the evidence before them and the law. They are not beholden to any special interest groups or personal beliefs, and they don’t decide cases based upon current public opinion or whoever yells the loudest. This is as it should be, and it takes courage not to give in to public pressure. Alaskans deserve the fair and impartial system that we have for nominating, evaluating, and retaining our judges. We must protect the independence of our judges and keep political pressures out of our courtrooms.
Having provided legal and judicial services in three states and fourteen tribes for the past 31 years, I firmly believe people expect to be treated fairly and without bias when they enter a justice system, whether it is civil or criminal, no matter if it is tribal, state or federal. Judges have the job of ensuring the law is impartially applied without any outside personal or political influence and that the most just outcome is rendered. Alaska’s current nomination, selection and evaluation system accomplishes just that. Independent, fair and qualified judges get the job done.
As a retired career Alaska police officer and chief of police, I believe we must protect the fairness and independence of our state judges from extreme partisan “winner takes all” views that are destroying our democracy. Alaskans are best served by judges who are fair and independent and who make decisions based on the law, not based on special interests.
As a former member of the Alaska Judicial Council, I know we can count on the non-partisan citizen council to thoroughly examine how judges perform their duties. I have confidence in the Judicial Council’s recommendations on judges. Monied special interests should not determine who sits on our courts.
I feel fortunate to live and practice law in a state whose Founders valued fair and impartial courts. They required that judges be selected for their merit, not who they knew or how much money they could raise. I want future Alaskans to have that same good fortune: courts that are fair, just, and impartial.
Alaskans for Fair Courts
Donna Goldsmith, Co-Chair
Elaine Andrews, Co-Chair
Tom Amodio, Treasurer
Niesje Steinkruger, Secretary
Bruce Botelho, Board Member
Barb Hood, Board Member
Bud Carpeneti, Board Member
Debra O’Gara, Board Member
Erin Jackson-Hill, Board Member
Chuck Kopp, Board Member
James E. Torgerson, Board Member
Ray R. Brown
Rene J. Gonzalez
Mark I. Wood