On multiple occasions Juneau defense attorney Louis James Menendez said he was a long shot for the seat on the Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins is retiring from, but late Monday afternoon Gov. Sean Parnell picked the self-described underdog for that post.
“I think everybody is a long shot,” Menendez said after the announcement. “I am very happy with the appointment.”
Menendez is currently in private practice focusing on criminal defense. He has been an Alaska resident for 30 years and has practiced law for more than 29 years. Menendez was hired as a research attorney for the Alaska Judicial Council in 1976. He worked as a state prosecutor beginning in 1979 in Anchorage, Kodiak, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Ketchikan, and Juneau. During the summer of 1985 he completed a filmmaking program at NYU. From 1986-88 he worked as an assistant federal public defender in Texas. In 1988 he began Alaska state prosecutor work and left in 1994 to pursue private practice.
Menendez earned his law degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, and his Master of Laws in criminal law and justice from New York University.
“Mr. Menendez brings a variety of experience to the Superior Court,” Parnell stated in a press release. “He is an accomplished trial attorney who treats the court, juries, and all interested parties with respect. Mr. Menendez clearly has a love for the law combined with an understanding of people that should set him apart as a judge. I’m looking forward to his contributions to Alaska’s justice system.”
Alaska’s Superior Courts are trial courts for both criminal and civil cases. They also serve appellate courts for cases from the district courts and several administrative agencies. Superior Courts also hear cases involving children, domestic relations and property matters.
The original judge candidates included Menendez, District Court Judge Keith Levy, and U.S. Magistrate Leslie Longenbaugh. The Alaska Judicial Council nominated Menendez and Levy to Parnell on April 4. Parnell then had 45 days to make his appointment. Levy, who also oversees the Therapeutic Court program, is out of town with Judicial Council activities and could not be reached for comment.
Former district attorney Doug Gardner prosecuted many cases against Menendez clients and said the two communicated well.
“Louis has a lot of trial experience and I think the defense and prosecution bar that spends a lot of time in court will appreciate that,” Gardner said. “I thought there were great candidates in this particular process and congratulate both candidates.
“In my experience with him in trial, Louis was a straight shooter and a very trustworthy person. He is a fair guy and I thought we had good communication behind the scenes on big issues and narrowed a lot of issues the court had to deal with at trial and settled a lot of cases with just results.”
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.