Why It Matters
During recent retention elections, special interest groups have increasingly flooded radio, mail, email, and online channels with messages aimed at swaying Alaskans to replace judges who will not support their groups’ beliefs or politics over the rule of law.
The most important expectation Alaskans have of our courts is that judges will treat everyone fairly, protect due process, and guarantee equal justice for all – by following the law. Alaskans need to protect the independence of judges so that they are able to make decisions based only on the law and disregard pressure from political or other special interests attempting to control their decision-making.
Alaska’s merit-based system for evaluating whether to retain judges prevents:
When judicial decisions are based on popular opinion instead of the law, what is “fair” will no longer be determined by application of the law and will instead be decided by who can wield the most influence – who has the loudest voice, the most political clout, or the most money.
Pandering to Special Interests & Interference from Politicians
Judicial independence requires that judges are free to decide cases based only on the law and facts presented to them, without fear of retaliation from politicians, religious leaders, or other special interest groups seeking to remove them from office because they did not like the result in a single case.
Judges who are not shielded from outside pressures are more susceptible to corrupting forces. Under Alaska’s merit retention system, the required ongoing, comprehensive evaluations of judges serves Alaskans by ensuring that the judge who is selected on merit continues to exercise the highest standards of professional and ethical performance.