Judicial review hearing on tap

Judging judges

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

A statewide public hearing, part of the Alaska Judicial Council's evaluation of judges whose names will appear on the November ballot, will be held Thursday, according to Bill Cotton, executive director of the council.

On the ballot and of particular interest to Kenai Peninsula residents are Superior Court judges Harold M. Brown and Jonathan H. Link, as well as other third judicial district and appellate court judges.

Legislative Information Offices in both Homer and Kenai, as well as other LIOs throughout the state, will host the public hearing via the Legislative Teleconference Net-work System. It begins at 5 p.m., with testimony from peninsula participants scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m.

"We're interested in hearing from people," Cotton said. "We'll be asking them to limit their comments to three to four minutes unless we have extra time."

This is just one step of the council's effort to gather feedback from a wide variety of sources including jurors, court employees, social workers, law enforcement personnel, attorneys and the public.

Those unable to attend, can submit their comments by mail at 1029 W. Third Ave., Suite 201, Anchorage, AK 99501-1969, or through the council's World Wide Web site at www.ajc.state .ak.us/Retention00/retent.htm.

The hearing will be chaired by Cotton. Present via the statewide teleconference network will be council members Katie Hurley of Wasilla, Janice Lienhart or her replacement Gigi Pilcher of Ketchikan, Vicki Otte of Juneau and Anchorage, Geoffrey Currall of Ketchikan, Paul Ewers of Fairbanks and Robert Wagstaff of Anchorage. Also participating is council chairman Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Matthews of Anchorage.

Information gathered by the council will be available to the public sometime after June 16.

"There will be a tremendous amount of detailed information available in two ways," said Cotton. It can be obtained in written form (from the council) or on the Internet site."

A summary of the information also will go into a voter pamphlet distributed prior to the election.

Efforts by Alaskans to make changes in the judicial system have been making headlines lately.

On April 27, Ralph Winterrowd delivered three boxes of materials containing 30 "Articles of Impeachment" to the Alaska State Senate. Senate President Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage, referred the matter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sens. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, and Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell. The committee requested a review of those materials by the Senate Judiciary Committee to Legislative Legal and Research Services.

"Following Legislative Legal Services review, the committee has considered the materials and recommends no further action," according to the Senate journal of May 3.

Torgerson said Ed Martin Jr., of Cooper Landing, contacted him about the possibility of an independent counsel to investigate judicial actions.

"That decision isn't mine to make," Torgerson said.

Martin has since discussed the possibility of an independent counsel with Pearce. Attempts to reach Pearce's office Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Martin is seeking judicial changes based on first-hand experience and observations.

"I've got some rulings out of this Kenai court that are totally biased and prejudicial," said Martin.

"I've got the whole list of judicial council members here and I've contacted every one of them. It'll be real interesting how they deal with it."

Cotton said he has received complaints regarding two judges. The information will be presented to the Alaska Judicial Council. Neither judge is from the Kenai Peninsula.

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