JUNEAU — State court Judge Sharon Gleason on Tuesday became the first woman named to a federal bench in Alaska.
Gleason’s confirmation came on an 87-8 vote in the U.S. Senate.
Gleason, who has been the presiding Superior Court judge in the Anchorage area since 2009, will replace U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick, who is going on senior status. She said it was all still sinking in, hours after the vote.
“I’m just so honored and humbled I can’t even tell you,” she said.
Gleason’s confirmation was lauded by Alaska’s two senators, each of whom spoke on the floor prior to Tuesday’s vote. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich praised Gleason as smart, well-rounded and compassionate, with an “ample supply of common sense.” He said her confirmation was a momentous — and long overdue — occasion in Alaska.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Gleason is and will continue to be a “superb” judge.
“She spends many hours evaluating herself to ensure that she is not only meeting her own standards about being fair to all sides but also behaves in a manner that leads the parties to know she is being fair,” Murkowski said.
Gleason, 54, was appointed to the Superior Court in 2001, after serving in private practice for 17 years. She was retained by voters in 2004 and 2010.
Gleason is a 1979 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and received her law degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law in 1983.
Gleason said she watched the vote on TV at home, texting with her children, who are away at college, throughout. Her parents and family also were watching.
“I can’t say this was my lifetime goal. It kind of evolved over time, that I saw this as an opportunity to have greater challenges as a judge than I’ve had and to branch into other areas,” she said. “But I’ve really enjoyed this job, and I think the new challenges that I’ll face in the federal court will be something that I welcome.”
She said one of her bigger challenges in assuming the new role will be the more general case load. She has primarily handled civil cases in the state court and will be taking on more criminal cases as a federal judge. But she said she’s up for the task.
She expects to start in about a month.