Chief justice to attend Kenai judges' forum

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2001

Anyone with questions about the Alaska Court System can find the answers at a "Meet Your Judges Forum" this Monday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Merit Inn in Kenai.

Dana Fabe, chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, will be there, as will Kenai Superior Court judges Jonathan H. Link and Harold M. Brown, Magistrate David S. Landry and Master Anne M. Preston, an appointee of the presiding judge of the Third Judicial District who hears mainly family issues. All but Fabe work in Kenai.

"The whole public should come Monday night," said Kathleen Rice, director of CourtWatch, a nonprofit group whose volunteers observe court proceedings and evaluate judges.

"How can you learn about the court system if you don't participate?"

About 50 people attended a similar forum in Anchorage, she said. The crowd there ranged from people suing judges to citizens with questions about how judges determine sentences.

"A lot of people don't understand that it's the Legislature that makes the laws and the judge that enforces them," she said.

Brown said he hopes for a big turnout at the Kenai forum. One reason for holding it is to dispel the notion that judges are aloof and unapproachable, he said.

"We think it's important that we go out every once in a while and make ourselves available to the public, so we can answer general questions about why we do (what we do) and about why what we do is important to society," he said.

The judges will answer questions about the structure, policies and procedures of the Alaska Court System, he said, but for ethical reasons, they cannot comment on the reasons for their rulings in specific cases.

Brown said he regrets that the forum is slated for what could be the peak of the sockeye salmon run, but it had to be so in order to fit into Fabe's schedule. While there is no similar forum slated for Homer, Brown said he expects one could be scheduled if enough citizens express an interest.

Kenai Mayor John Williams will be moderator for the Monday forum. Landry will speak and answer questions about how the courts really work, the problems they face and how people can obtain more information about them.

The main part of the program will be devoted to answering questions from the audience.

The judges invite questions on landlord-tenant issues, criminal law, small claims, traffic cases, juvenile law, hunting and fishing violations, divorce and custody issues and court policies and procedures.

Senior Superior Court Judge Charles K. Cranston is slated to attend Monday's forum, but may be absent due to an unexpected trip to Central America, Brown said.



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