As a former public member of the Alaska Judicial Council, I take issue with current efforts in the legislature — through SJR 21 and HJR 33 — to change Alaska’s Constitutional framework for selecting judges by dramatically altering the composition of the council.
Adding more politically appointed public members will not foster greater diversity or ensure broader representation. The Governor already has the power to appoint council members who are more geographically balanced and ethnically diverse. At least four Alaska Natives have served on the council since Statehood: Mary Jane Fate of Fairbanks (1981-1987); Leona Okakok of Barrow (1987-1993); myself, originally from McGrath (1995-2000); and Gigi Pilcher of Ketchikan (2000-2005).
That no recent Governor has appointed a rural resident or ethnic minority is no fault of our judicial selection process. The proposed amendment would not ensure a more balanced council. It would instead expand the ability of political leaders to ensure the dominance of their own views on the council, however narrow and unrepresentative they may be.