ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sean Parnell appointed Alaska Court of Appeals Judge Joel Bolger to the Alaska Supreme Court, filling the seat being vacated at the end of the month by the retirement of Justice Walter “Bud” Carpeneti.
Bolger was selected from among four nominees put forward by the independent Alaska Judicial Council last month. Those nominees included Chief Assistant Attorney General Susan Cox of Juneau and Judge Trevor N. Stephens of Ketchikan.
Bolger first moved to Alaska in 1978. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a juris doctorate. He began his Alaskan legal career in Dillingham as a VISTA volunteer attorney, and then supervised the Alaska Legal Services Corporation in Kodiak. Then, after serving as an assistant public defender in Barrow, he joined the private practice firm of Jamin Ebell Bolger & Gentry in Kodiak, where he litigated civil and criminal cases, advised the borough assembly, mediated disputes, and negotiated business transactions.
In 1997, Bolger was appointed as a district court judge in Valdez, followed by an appointment to the Kodiak Superior Court. Since 2008, he has served as a Court of Appeals judge in Anchorage.
“Judge Bolger’s vast experience will be a tremendous asset for Alaska’s highest court,” Parnell said. “His service at each level of the Alaska Court System has prepared him to serve Alaskans with humility, thoughtfulness, legal expertise, and discernment.”
Bolger will be the 23rd justice to serve on the Alaska Supreme Court since statehood in 1959.
The appointment means the Supreme Court will not have a justice from Juneau starting next month, ending a tradition dating back to John Henry Dimond, one of the original members of the 1959 Court.
The Supreme Court serves as the appeals court for the state’s District and Superior Courts, as well as the Alaska Court of Appeals. The chief justice and four associate justices hear cases in Anchorage on a monthly basis and in Fairbanks and Juneau on a quarterly basis.
The Supreme Court also administers the state’s judicial system.