The Alaska Judicial Council selected Juneau District Court Judge Keith B. Levy and Juneau attorney Louis James Menendez on Monday as finalists to fill a spot on Juneau’s Superior Court.
Gov. Sean Parnell will have 45 days after receiving the nominee materials to decide who will replace Judge Patricia Collins, who is scheduled to retire in June.
The AJC met with the applicants in private interviews Monday morning and then heard public testimony hosted by council member Walter Carpeneti, chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, in the Dimond Courthouse at noon. The council also held a closed meeting with Superior Court Judge Philip M. Pallenberg concerning applicants Levy, Menendez, and United States Magistrate Judge Leslie Longenbaugh before making a decision.
In the public forum, Carpeneti noted a statement from Collins, who could not attend, that all the applicants were suitable candidates for her position.
Members of the council attending included Juneau attorney Julie Willoughby, Anchorage attorney James Cannon, Valdez public member Don Haase, Anchorage public member William Clarke, and council executive director Larry Cohn.
Anchorage attorney Kevin Fitzgerald and public member Kathleen Tompkins-Miller were not available.
Juneau resident Alexander Hoke said he was concerned the bar survey of the applicants does not show the personality behind the robe. Hoke, whose wife is an attorney, has served on two jury panels, and witnessed a number of civil trials and has seen judges showing hostility towards counsel, playing to power and a bias in the way trials were conducted.
The council stated the bar survey question on judicial temperament was just one of many tools and council members have more information than what is shown in the survey, which received much feed back from attorneys.
Carpeneti added that the council received hundreds and hundreds of comments.
Attorney Fred Triem shared his observation on qualities that make good judges.
“The universe of judges are divided in two parts,” Triem said. “Talkers and writers. I find that the writers do better than the talkers.”
Triem noted former Sitka Superior Court Judge Duane Craske and current Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor N. Stephens as two who show humility and compassion and an interest in people as well as the ability to write well.
Triem said all three applicants were worthy of the appointment and would just flip a coin.
Triem said he also would like to see more of the applicant’s background than what is expressed in their 150-word statements, because more information would be appreciated.
Therapeutic court graduate JoAnn Lockwood stated that Levy was an awesome judge with much community involvement.
“One thing you will find is that if any one comes out of Judge Levy’s courtroom you know something good is going on in there,” Lockwood said. “You walk out with honesty, integrity, and complete accountability.”
Retired Juneau Lutheran Pastor Larry Rorem said has spent 21 years here being an advocate for disadvantaged people and the awareness, knowledge and perception of the judges have improved over that time.
“Who we get in the courtroom is crucial,” Rorem said. “Levy has been a real gift to us.”
AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) legal advocate Anne Bennett stated that the judge should have a really good working knowledge of domestic violence.
Theresa Obermeyer phoned-in with a commentary on her skepticism in the bar association’s code of ethics and the actions of the judicial council.
Obermeyer is a former Anchorage School Board member known in Alaska for her public advocacy for her husband Tom Obermeyer, who has failed the Alaska bar exam 33 times.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.