Two names offered for high court vacancy

Posted: Sunday, February 08, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Judicial council has put forth the names of two Southcentral Alaska judges to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy.

Gov. Sarah Palin will have 45 days to chose between Superior Court Judges Morgan Christen and Eric Smith to fill an opening on Alaska's highest court.

The vacancy was created by the upcoming retirement of Justice Warren Matthews, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Jay Hammond 32 years ago.

The council selected finalists from a list of six candidates after a review process that included a survey of more than 3,000 members of the Alaska Bar Association.

Members rated candidates for professional competence, integrity and fairness.

Christen and Smith received the highest scores.

Christen, 47, was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Tony Knowles in 2001.

She's the presiding judge for the Third Judicial District, which covers Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Cordova, Valdez and Kodiak. The district also covers Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Islands.

As presiding judge, Christen oversees the work of 23 other Superior Court judges.

Smith, 55, was appointed by Knowles in 1996. He's one of four Superior Court judges in Palmer.

Other applicants for the opening were Anchorage attorneys Frank Pfiffner, Ken Jacobus and Kenneth Kirk, and Anchorage administrative law judge David Lawrence.

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