Public weighs in on Alaska Supreme Court nominees

Judge Pallenberg of Juneau among candidates for spot on high court bench

The Alaska Judicial Council heard public comment Tuesday that members should ignore results from a recent poll ranking Alaska Supreme Court justice nominees, while others suggested the poll should hold greater weight.

 

Five Alaska residents in total spoke during the public comment portion of a two-day process to decide who will fill Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe’s vacancy. Gov. Tony Knowles appointed Fabe to the high court in 1996 and she plans to step down in June.

Licensed Alaska attorneys ranked eight candidates for the position earlier this year during an anonymous survey.

David Landry, a contractor out of Anchorage, said he is concerned the state’s highest bench will become even less a reflection of the state’s population when the only woman steps down. If the council takes the poll results seriously, the highest scorer — a woman ­— should be selected, Landry said.

“(Justice Fabe is) a visible minority on the bench,” Landry said. “I would urge (the council) to consider trying to diversify the makeup or continue some diversity in the makeup of the Supreme Court.”

Applicants for the Alaska Supreme Court vacancy, followed by their overall rating from the Alaska Bar Association poll (on a 1-5 scale, with a higher number indicating greater success) are:

• Susan M. Carney, 4.5,

• Andrew Guidi, 4.3,

• Philip Pallenberg, 4.2,

• Jahna Lindemuth, 4.1,

• Ruth Botstein, 3.8,

• David Avraham Voluck, 3.3,

• Paul A. Roetman, 3.2,

• Kevin G. Clarkson, 2.7.

This is Juneau Superior Court Judge Pallenberg’s second attempt at a spot on the state’s highest bench. He previously applied in 2012, when Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti announced his retirement.

Pallenberg is the only applicant for the post in Juneau.

Anchorage-based attorney Matthew Peterson said the bar poll results are not a proper reflection of each candidates’ skills and abilities. Peterson spoke Tuesday in favor of his colleague Clarkson who scored the lowest in the survey.

The poll results, gathered by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services, are based solely on the opinions of attorneys who have some direct professional experience with the applicants. Each applicant had a varying amount of surveys filled out on their behalf, ranging from 54 to 291.

A second Anchorage attorney spoke in favor of Clarkson, touting his colleague’s “selfless dedication of time” during volunteer work.

Candidates Guidi and Carney also had speakers on their behalf, and only one caller spoke to deter the court from an applicant.

Heidi Horner-Raffaele told council members her experiences with David Avraham Voluck, a tribal judge with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska, left her certain he was unfit to fill the vacancy.

“He was anything but easy to work with,” Horner-Raffaele recalled from her time as a witness in his court. She said she has experience in the court as a guardian ad litem — a person asked to discuss the best interest of a child in certain proceedings — and has seen Voluck act “disrespectful” toward families in the courtroom.

The seven-member council heard each public testimony without asking follow-up questions. The group privately interviewed candidates Botstein, Carney and Clarkson on Tuesday. Private interviews for Guidi, Roetman, Pallenberg, Voluck and Lindemuth are scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. today. A public interview with all of the candidates will take place at 1:15-3:30 p.m. today.

The council will privately deliberate the candidates at 3:30 p.m. today, followed by a public vote. All proceedings will take place at the Boney Courthouse, Supreme Court Conference Room, 303 K Street in Anchorage. For information about participating telephonically during public sessions, call 279-2526, ext. 0. For more information about applicants, visit www.ajc.state.ak.us.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

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