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Louis Menendez gets a seat on the bench

Former lawyer is sworn-in to the Superior Court

Posted: October 1, 2011 - 11:07pm
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Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez, right, reacts to a story being told by Juneau Superior Court Judge Phillip Pallenberg, left, as District Court Judge Thomas Nave, center, listens during Menendez's swearing-in ceremony at the Dimond Courthouse on Friday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez, right, reacts to a story being told by Juneau Superior Court Judge Phillip Pallenberg, left, as District Court Judge Thomas Nave, center, listens during Menendez's swearing-in ceremony at the Dimond Courthouse on Friday.

Longtime attorney Louis James Menendez was sworn in as a Juneau Superior Court Judge in a ceremony at the Dimond Court Building on Friday before friends, family and a number of judges from Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter L. Carpeneti administered the oath of office and praised Menendez, who has been an Alaska resident for 30 years and has practiced law for more than 29 years, for his lifelong commitment to learning, hard work and family.

“I think it is evident that he has trained himself very, very well for the job that he is about to undertake,” Carpeneti said. “I am very happy to see Louis join us on the bench, and I just want to say that I think that the people of Juneau and the people of the state of Alaska are going to see wonderful things from Judge Menendez.”

Gov. Sean Parnell announced in May that he selected Menendez for the bench after the Alaska Judicial Council chose Menendez and District Court Judge Keith Levy as the two candidates for the post. Alaska’s constitution and laws require the governor to fill judicial vacancies by appointing from a list of applicants nominated by the Council. The council must present the governor with at least two choices for each vacant judgeship.

Menendez fought back tears during the formal robing ceremony in which his daughter, Pilar Menendez Tragesser, who attended the ceremony with her son Jaden Louis Tragesser, helped him step into a black robe over his suit for the first time, and during remarks from his brother and best friend, James Menendez, and childhood friend John D. Laughton.

“When I go to the office in the morning, I am the luckiest guy in the world because I like to go to work,” he said, noting that he has been on the job for a month now. “And when I’m there and when I leave at night, I never forget the fact of whose office I’m leaving. Its my office, of course, but it’s all those who came before.”

During acknowledgements, Menendez thanked his grandparents, who were first-generation immigrants from Spain, his mother and his late father, his brother and friend Laughton, aunts and uncles, extended family and everyone in the audience. He also acknowledged the now retired judge whose post he is filling, Judge Patricia Collins.

“‘Tricia is a phenomenal lawyer, a phenomenal friend and a phenomenal judge,” he said. “... Trisha, I am deeply honored to take this position. I think of you often when I am in that office upstairs working, and I think of how hard you worked with that position, and it’s something I’ll never forget. Thank you.”

He promised not to forget whose position he was taking.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, Juneau District Court Judge Thomas Nave and Sitka Superior Court Judge David V. George also made remarks about Menendez during the ceremony. Other judges in attendance were Levy, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg, Ketchikan Superior Court Judge William Barker Carey and Ketchikan District Court Judge Kevin G. Miller.

Formerly, Menendez has been in private practice focusing on criminal defense. He 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.

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.

Pallenberg, in closing remarks, lauded Menendez for his lifelong commitment to the cause of justice.

“That commitment more than anything else is what he brings to the bench,” he said. “The code of judicial conduct says that judges must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust. I think there could not be a more perfect description, I think, of why Judge Menendez decided to walk away from a successful, I’m sure profitable, law practice to take on this difficult job, because of his respect and honor for the judicial office as a public trust.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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