Parnell stands behind Judicial Council pick

Posted: Friday, March 25, 2011

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell reaffirmed his nomination of a controversial appointee for the judicial council, a day after senators called into question the nominee’s objectivity and residency.

Valdez oil terminal employee and former candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives Don Haase faced questions from Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee members on Wednesday, regarding posts under his name on the blog of Eagle Forum Alaska.

The senators referred to posts on the blog that advocated anti-abortion stances, as well as another post— written under Haase’s name but containing the contact information for a church in Ohio — that applauds a Michigan court vopinion that allows bringing felony charges against people accused of having extramarital affairs.

Haase claims he only posted the writings in his capacity as president of the conservative group, which he said lasted two months.

His nomination received additional scrutiny in regards to constitutional provisions mandating fair representation of Alaska’s four judicial districts on the council.

While Haase said he would be the first person from Valdez to hold a seat on the council, he would replace Ketchikan resident Christena Williams, whose term ended at the beginning of the month.

According to the state constitution, appointments to the council must be made with “due consideration” to including people from a diversity of locations.

If Haase were confirmed, Juneau attorney Julie Willoughby would be the lone representative on the council from southeast Alaska, according to Judicial Council Executive Director Larry Cohn.

Senate Judiciary Vice-Chair Bill Wielechowski said while he was concerned the blog posts indicated that Haase may look past candidates’ qualifications for judgeships and instead focus on their political views, he was mindful of the constitution’s mandate of a geographically diverse council.

“The constitution says we have to keep area representation,” Wielechowski said. “Obviously it’s a concern.”

In a news conference Thursday, Parnell told reporters he retained confidence in Haase.

“Based upon the resume he submitted, based upon the personal interviews done by our boards and commissions office, I concluded that he could fairly evaluate judge candidates,” Parnell said. “Certainly, comments like (the blog posts) don’t help his case.”



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