Fairbanks courthouse to be named for former justice

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Former Alaska Chief Justice Jay Rabinowitz will soon have a higher profile in Fairbanks.

The Alaska Court System has decided that the new Fairbanks courthouse will be name for the 32-year justice and former Fairbanks resident.

Rabinowitz, 74, spent much of his adult life in Fairbanks, arriving in 1957 as a law clerk. He was named a judge in 1960 and elevated to the Alaska Supreme Court in 1965.

As required by state law, Rabinowitz stepped down from the court when he turned 70. Rabinowitz now lives in Juneau.

Alaska courthouses are named by the Supreme Court justices.

Stephanie Cole, administrative director of the state court system, said the Supreme Court to her knowledge has always named major court buildings in Alaska after former justices.

She said the decision on the Fairbanks courthouse had been made only recently, but that the court had been considering naming the building after Rabinowitz for a long time.

''It wasn't a hard decision for them to make,'' she said. Rabinowitz's Fairbanks ties and long history of service to the Alaska court system made him a natural choice for the honor.

''Ever since Justice Rabinowitz retired and the building was being funded, the court focused on naming the building for him,'' she said.

Two groups had suggested alternative names.

Pioneers of Alaska Igloo No. 4 called for the building to be named in honor of Fairbanks pioneer Judge James Wickersham.

Pioneers argued that Wickersham, who named Fairbanks and helped guarantee its permanence by moving the Third Judicial District Court from Eagle in 1903, was more deserving of the honor.

Alfred Skondovich, president of the Pioneers, said he supported the Wickersham initiative but was not upset about the building being named after Rabinowitz, whom he called both an important man and an old friend.

''He was the right man at the right time and to know him was to respect him first, and just plain love him,'' he said.

The Supreme Court also received a proposal by the Alaska Native Veterans Association to name the building after Drew Dix, a Fairbanks resident who received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam.

The Supreme Court's decision is already set in stone.

According to courthouse project manager Chip Davis, a ''Rabinowitz Courthouse'' sign has already been installed over the main entrance of the building. Davis said a portrait of Rabinowitz will hang in the lobby when the courthouse opens in August.

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