Local magistrate named to Kenai Superior Court

Jennifer Wells is the newest addition to the Kenai Superior Court bench.

Her selection to fill the seat being left open by retiring Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman was announced Thursday by Gov. Bill Walker’s office. He announced appointments for seats in Bethel, Dillingham and Nome in addition to Kenai, as well as an appointment for a vacancy on the Court of Appeals.

Wells has been serving as a magistrate judge at the Kenai Courthouse. She was a public defender in Kenai for three years and clerked for Anchorage Superior Court Judge Dana Fabe, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“What I told the governor is that I am humbled, honored and grateful, and I am,” Wells said.

Wells has served as a magistrate judge, master, acting district court judge or training judge in Unalaska, Naknek, Dillingham, Kodiak, Glennallen, Palmer and Anchorage since 1994, according to the governor’s release. She she has been with the Kenai court since 2007.

Being in the court system for 22 years has given Wells knowledge of the important duties and responsibilities in the community, she said.

Wells was also involved in the formation of the Kenai Peninsula’s joint therapeutic court between the Alaska Court System and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, having served on the task force that worked on creating the new system.

As a magistrate judge, Wells did not have the ability to sit on that wellness court should the judge representing the Alaska Court System retire down the road.

“This will allow me to have the jurisdiction to continue the joint jurisdiction work with the tribe when Judge (Anna) Moran retires,” Wells said of the new position.

Wells was nominated for the superior court seat along with Assistant Attorney General Lance Joanis, who works in Kenai, by the Alaska Judicial Council in December.

The council made its selections after candidate interviews and a public hearing in Kenai where residents could weigh in on the applicants, and Walker made the final pick. Seven people originally applied for the Kenai seat.

“Alaska’s judicial system plays an important role in our state government,” Walker said in the release. “Serving as a judge requires a deep understanding of the law and respect for the diverse cultures and backgrounds throughout our state. Each of these individuals has given selflessly to their communities in a variety of ways. These unique experiences will be of great benefit to the people they serve.”

Wells said she looks forward to working hard and earning the community’s trust in her new position.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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