Alaska Supreme Court justice faces retention vote

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

FAIRBANKS - A retention vote for an Alaska Supreme Court justice has pitted opponents that call her an activist against supporters who argue that criticism distorts her record.

The independent Alaska Judicial Council, which reviews qualifications for judges, has recommended that voters keep Justice Dana Fabe, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. She was the first woman to join Alaska's high court 14 years ago and has been part of many high-profile decisions, including abortion cases.

Jim Minnery, who leads the conservative group Alaska Family Action, is among those urging voters to reject that recommendation and to drop Fabe. He wrote in an opinion article published Monday in the Daily News-Miner that "Alaskans have the right to vote on judges based on whether they agree with the judicial philosophy the judge brings to the bench."

Supporters, working through the recently formed Alaskans for Justice Dana Fabe, said the timing of the opposition before Tuesday's election aims specifically to prevent a balanced public debate about her qualifications.

At the center of the debate is the Supreme Court's 2007 rejection of a state law that required girls seeking an abortion to get a parent's consent. Voters in August responded to the court decision by passing Proposition 2, which requires parental notification.

Fabe, writing for the majority in the split 2007 decision, said the constitution holds room for state laws requiring parent notification before a girl's abortion.

But the law requiring parental consent, she said, broke a required constitutional balance between a minor's right to personal privacy and the interests of the state.

Minnery said "activist" legal approaches do not belong on federal or state high courts.

"If judges are going to act like politicians and legislate from the bench, we should treat them as such and vote them off when they continue to push their agendas on the rest of us," he wrote in his opinion article.

Fabe's supporters, backed by former state officials including former Chief Justice Alex Bryner, noted that Fabe agreed in June to send Proposition 2 to the polls.

Charlie Cole, a Fairbanks lawyer and a former attorney general under Republican Gov. Walter Hickel, said Fabe's decisions are always well-reasoned and her treatment of legal parties fair.

"Justice Fabe does excellent work as a member of the Alaska Supreme Court," he said in a statement. "She should be retained so that she can continue to do the job that she does so well for our judicial system and, thus, for all of us."

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