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ANCHORAGE - Longtime Bethel Superior Court Judge Dale Curda admits he made a mistake when he jailed a witness so she would be sober to testify for a trial back in 1995. But the Alaska Supreme Court decided Friday that Curda's error was not so serious that he should be disciplined.
"We never disputed the fact that the judge, in hindsight, should have handled the matter differently," said Jonathon A. Katcher, one of Curda's lawyers.
The Supreme Court, he said, went along with his argument that, "in essence, you have a judge who makes a single legal error that is not evidence of a pattern or practice of violating people's rights."
The court's unanimous ruling differs from the recommendation of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. That panel said Curda should be reprimanded for jailing a witness in the assault and kidnapping trial of Wilfred Raphael of Mountain Village.
Raphael appealed the conviction on the basis that jailing the witness amounted to coercion that tainted her testimony.