Your vote on Alaska judges matters

On Election Day 2012, all Alaska voters will have the opportunity to decide whether one of the five justices on the Alaska Supreme Court and one of the three judges on the Alaska Court of Appeals should serve another term. Voters will also decide whether trial court judges from across the state should serve another term, with voters specifically asked about those judges who typically hear cases brought in the region where the voter resides.

Your vote on judges matters. Why? These judges preside over and/or decide a wide range of issues that will almost certainly affect some important aspect of your life -custody and children’s issues, criminal cases, employment issues, property and business disputes, individual rights and constitutional questions. Given the importance of having fair and impartial judges not swayed by political or social pressure to bow to any one special interest, it is equally important that you are educated about your vote.

How does a voter evaluate a judge? The framers of the Alaska Constitution carefully crafted a system for selection and retention of Alaska judges that includes participation by the Governor, the legislature and the voters. As part of this plan, the independent, non-partisan Alaska Judicial Council was created. The Judicial Council is comprised of three non-attorneys who are selected by the Governor but must also be approved by the legislature, three attorneys selected by the Alaska Bar Association, and the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court (who only votes in the event of a tie).

The Judicial Council gathers a wide range of information about judges standing for retention and makes it available to the public. The Council’s website, www.ajc.state.ak.us, includes detailed information about judges on the ballot, including state-wide ratings of each judge by lawyers, police, probation officers, social workers, CASA volunteers who work with neglected and abused children, court employees and jurors. It also includes data about whether and when the judge has been affirmed or reversed on appeal, whether the judge was ever disciplined and whether the judge’s pay was ever withheld for making untimely decisions.

Be careful with your vote. Be educated about your vote. It matters.

Patricia Collins

Douglas

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