4 seek district court position

Murkowski about a month away from making his selection

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004

Juneau District Court will be without a judge for two months.

Judge Peter B. Froehlich is retiring Tuesday after 15 years on the bench, and Gov. Frank Murkowski is about a month away from naming a successor, Area Court Administrator Neil Nesheim said.

District court has jurisdiction in misdemeanor and small claims cases. Court officers in Southeast Alaska will shuffle to take care of the extra work.

Earlier this month, the Alaska Judicial Council found four candidates - two assistant state attorneys general, a city prosecutor and a federal magistrate - for Froehlich's seat. Murkowski hasn't interviewed any of them, said Laraine Derr, of the governor's office.

The governor has until Jan. 27 to make an appointment. His selection must come from a list of judicial council nominations.

Eight attorneys applied for the post before the August deadline. This month, the judicial council whittled the list to four:

• Brad J. Brinkman, 55, has been an Alaska resident and practicing attorney for 28 years. He works in Juneau as an assistant attorney general.

• James E. Douglas, 61, has lived in Alaska for 23 years and has practiced law for 31 years. He is a city prosecutor who often appears in Juneau District Court.

• Keith B. Levy, 48, another assistant attorney general, has been an Alaska resident for 17 years and has practiced law for 22 years.

• Philip M. Pallenberg, 43, has lived in Alaska for 21 years and has practiced law nearly as long. He works in private practice and serves as the federal magistrate in Juneau.

Once appointed, judges are subject to periodic review by the voters. None of the nominees will preside over Juneau District Court the day Froehlich leaves, Nesheim said.

Ketchikan District Judge Kevin Miller and Haines Magistrate John Hutchins will cover Juneau District Court for one week in January and one week in February. Juneau Magistrate John W. Sivertsen Jr. will be serving in the district court role at other times.

The Ketchikan District Court duties will be handled by the two superior court judges and district magistrate in Miller's absence, Nesheim said. Matters that must be handled in Haines during Hutchins' absence, such as domestic violence hearings, can be covered by magistrates from Yakutat or Skagway, he said.

Murkowski will also appoint judges in Homer, Anchorage and Fairbanks the next month, Derr said.

The judicial council has had to deal with a number of vacancies recently, and Nesheim said he understands why Froehlich's successor hasn't been named.

The council is a citizens' commission created by the state constitution and consists of three attorneys, three non-attorneys and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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