The Alaska Judicial Council has nominated a local magistrate judge and a former Kenai District Attorney for a soon-to-be-empty Kenai Superior Court Judge seat.
Judge Carl Bauman announced previously that he does not intend to seek retention this year and will leave his seat in the Kenai Superior Court in February. Kenai Magistrate Judge Jennifer Wells and Assistant Attorney General Lance Joanis, who works in Kenai, were nominated by the council out of six applicants after a round of interviews and public testimony Dec. 3-4. Joanis was Kenai’s district attorney and was replaced by District Attorney Scot Leaders when he took his current job working on Child in Need of Aid cases.
The council, which is made up of three attorneys, three non-attorneys and Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers, will wait until early January to submit the names to Gov. Bill Walker. Stowers, who chairs the council, said after the public testimony that this is to delay the start of Walker’s 45-day window in which to make his final appointment in order to account for his surgery and recovery this month.
When considering applicants for the bench, the council takes into account things like community participation, credit reports and bar discipline, according to a release from the council.
Joanis began practicing in Bethel as an assistant district attorney before working briefly in Anchorage’s district attorney office. He made the move to the attorney general’s office in 2011 after having served as Kenai’s district attorney.
“I think it’s the next step in service to the community,” Joanis said of the superior court position in a previous Clarion interview. “And it seems like an interesting line of work.”
Wells has been a magistrate in Kenai, Anchorage and Tok since 1994. She she has been with the Kenai court since 2007, and also lived in Kenai in the 1990s while practicing as a lawyer. Wells previously told the Clarion she would like to be able to apply some of her earlier experience from Anchorage working with family and domestic violence law, should she be appointed to the judge seat.
“I’ve done so much work in family law and civil law that I would really like to expand on that,” she said in a previous interview.
Wells was also involved in the formation of the peninsula’s recently-launched joint therapeutic court between the Alaska Court System and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, having served on the task force that worked on making the court a reality.
Reach Megan Pacer at email@example.com.