Legislative panels eye judicial nominations

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004

ANCHORAGE - The state House and Senate judiciary committees will meet at the end of the month to discuss the conflict between Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Alaska Judicial Council on the state's judicial nominating process.

Murkowski last month rejected a list of three nominees sent to him by the Judicial Council to fill a vacant Anchorage Superior Court seat. Jim Clark, Murkowski's chief of staff, has said the council should send the names of all qualified applicants.

Council members say the state's constitution requires them to choose two or more of the most qualified candidates to submit to the governor.

The joint session of both house's judiciary committees will take place on Sept. 30 in Anchorage, according to the office of Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks.

The council is made up of three non-lawyers chosen by the governor and approved by the Legislature, three lawyers chosen by the Alaska Bar Association, and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, who votes only to break a tie.

Last week Clark declined to set up an informational meeting between the council and the governor unless there was a chance the council might agree to change its bylaws.

"The governor does not need a meeting to receive instruction on this issue," Clark wrote in a Sept. 7 letter to council executive director Larry Cohn.

Clark said he would be happy to meet with the council at any time to discuss any aspect of the matter.

Cohn said council members understand Murkowski's position but that they have done what the constitution mandates and can't compromise.

"There really is nothing else to do," Cohn said. The governor has until Sept. 25 to make an appointment from the existing nomination list.

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