Wenda Kennedy speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Wenda Kennedy speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Judicial Council hears testimony on Kenai Superior Court candidates

Tuesday at 4 p.m., a public vote will be held by the Judicial Council to determine which candidates will be nominated for the position

The Alaska Judicial Council held a hearing Monday to allow members of the public to weigh in on the selection of a replacement for Judge Jennifer K. Wells, who is retiring from the Kenai Superior Court.

The public hearing was held immediately before a series of interviews held with the nine remaining candidates for the position, of 11 applications received by an October deadline.

Tuesday at 4 p.m., a public vote will be held by the Judicial Council to determine which candidates will be nominated for the position. Gov. Mike Dunleavy will have 45 days to select one of the nominees for the role.

The candidates, in the order of their scheduled interviews, are Curtis Patteson, Lacey Jane Brewster, Amanda Browning, Nicholas Torres, Katherine Ann Elsner, Kelly J. Lawson, Elizabeth Leduc, William Montgomery, Gustaf Olson. The interviews, which began following the public hearing, at around 1:30 p.m., are scheduled to run through Tuesday.

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree, who led the proceedings, explained that each candidate had the option of a public or a private interview; only Patteson elected to allow the public to attend.

Public hearing is important, Winfree explained, to afford the public the opportunity to have their voices heard in selecting the new judge. Each individual who testified on a candidate’s behalf had their support recorded.

Of 26 who testified, 24 threw their support behind Brewster. Their testimonies hinged on her support of grand juries to investigate judges — and were assembled by activists David Haeg and Ray Southwell of Alaska Grand Jurors Association, which had been sending emails and posting on social media to turn out testimony for the candidate.

One speaker, Loren Hollers, said he was there because of Haeg.

“I credit all that to David,” he said.

“Most of these people here don’t know her — probably don’t know anything about her,” he said of Brewster.

Support for Lawson was voiced by Wenda Kennedy, who identified herself as a “professional property real estate investor” and a juris doctor, and said that she had had many strong legal discussions with Lawson over the years.

“We don’t always agree on things, but she has ample qualities that we really really need,” Kennedy said. “Great capacity for critical thinking.”

Christine Hutchison voiced support for Browning, who she said had a strong grasp on the “biblical geo-Christian values” that are important to her.

“It’s very important to me that those values be considered in every judgment a judge makes,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for in every candidate for a political position.”

For more information about the Alaska Judicial Council and the process to fill the Kenai Superior Court seat, visit ajc.state.ak.us.

This story was corrected on Jan. 26. It previously misidentified Wenda Kennedy and inaccurately represented her testimony. The Clarion regrets the error.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Ray Southwell speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Ray Southwell speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

David Haeg speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

David Haeg speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree leads the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree leads the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kritie Babcock, a member of the Alaska Judicial Council, speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kritie Babcock, a member of the Alaska Judicial Council, speaks during the public hearing held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court Judge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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