Dunleavy keeps open court seat, questions nomination process

The council advanced three names for two open seats on the Palmer Superior Court

  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 10:59pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has declined — for now — to fill a seat on the Palmer Superior Court, citing questions with the process used in sending nominees to him for consideration.

Dunleavy sent a letter to the Alaska Judicial Council saying he believed there were qualified candidates that the council “inexplicably” did not nominate. The council advanced three names for two open seats on the Palmer Superior Court.

Dunleavy appointed to one of the seats John Cagle, an assistant district attorney in Anchorage who was on the list. He left the other spot vacant. “I will not be selecting a second candidate from this truncated list,” the governor wrote.

The judicial council’s website shows there were 13 applicants for the two seats. Two of the applicants withdrew, and a third was appointed to another judgeship, the site shows. Under the Constitution, when there is a superior court vacancy, the council is to nominate at least two candidates for the governor to choose from. The council says on its website that it is to advance the most qualified.

The Alaska Supreme Court has held that the council is within its right to send to the governor one more nominee than the number of positions to be filled. In this case, there would have been three candidates to choose from for one of the Palmer seats and two for the remaining seat.

Dunleavy’s letter states that the council declined to nominate for the Palmer Superior Court a candidate it had previously nominated for the Anchorage Superior Court and the Anchorage District Court.

The letter states that Dunleavy’s office had requested more information from the council on candidates not recommended, including the council’s reasoning. “Thus far you have declined to provide me more information,” he wrote.

Dunleavy wrote he wants to review the council’s reasoning to determine if additional qualified candidates could be nominated for the still-open position.

Susanne DiPietro, the council’s executive director, said she provided additional information but was not asked about the council’s reasoning.

Following up on Dunleavy’s letter Thursday, she said she checked with the administration to see if she had missed something. She said she was told there was a clerical error resulting in a letter from Dunleavy’s chief of staff seeking the council’s reasoning, dated Monday, not being sent. She ultimately received that Thursday afternoon.

DiPietro said now that she has that request she would share it with the council.

• By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press

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