On March 4, 2009, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin executed two judicial appointments: Morgan Christen to the Alaska Supreme Court (Christen, 2009, Â¶1) and Steve W. Cole to the Kodiak Superior Court (Cole, 2009, Â¶1).
“Alaska’s Supreme Court bears the awesome responsibility of ensuring that our court system administers justice in firm accordance with the principles laid down in our state Constitution,” said Governor Palin. “I have every confidence that Judge Christen has the experience, intellect, wisdom and character to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice” (Christen, 2009, Â¶2).
“The Alaska Supreme Court serves as the ultimate court of appeals for the state’s District and Superior Courts. The chief justice and four associate justices hear cases in Anchorage on a monthly basis and in Fairbanks and Juneau on a quarterly basis. The court also administers the state’s judicial system” (Christen, 2009, Â¶6). The current Justice being replaced Warren Matthews will be 70 years of age on April 5, 2009. Under Alaskan law, State Supreme Court Justices must retire by the age of 70 (Christen, 2009, Â¶6). “Under current judicial selection procedures, the Alaska Judicial Council received applications from six Alaska attorneys, winnowed the list to two names, and forwarded them to the [G]overnor” (Christen, 2009, Â¶6).
“Alaska’s Superior Courts (not to be confused with Alaska’s Supreme Court referenced above) are civil and criminal trial courts, with authority to serve as appeals courts for cases from District Court and some administrative agencies. Superior Courts have authority to hear cases involving children, domestic relations, property of deceased or incompetent persons, and involuntary commitment of persons to institutions for the mentally ill” (Cole, 2009, Â¶6).
“Cole fills a vacancy on the Kodiak Superior Court left when Judge Joel H. Bolger was appointed to the Alaska Court of Appeals in 2008. Cole was one of two candidates presented to the governor by the Alaska Judicial Council” (Cole, 2009, Â¶7).
Biographical Information on Justice Christen:
Christen, 47, was born in Chehalis, Washington. After attending colleges in England, Switzerland, and the People’s Republic of China, she received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Washington in 1983, and a law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, California, in 1986 (Christen, 2009, Â¶3).
Christen worked as a law clerk to Anchorage Superior Court Justice Brian Shortell from 1986-87, then joined Preston, Gates & Ellis in 1987, becoming a partner in 1992. She was appointed as an Anchorage Superior Court justice in 2002, and has been presiding judge since 2005 (Christen, 2009, Â¶4).
Christen currently serves on the boards of the Alaska Community Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation, and previously served on the boards of the United Way of Anchorage, and of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. A past president of Anchorage Association of Women Lawyers, she has also won the Anchorage Chamber’s Light of Hope award for helping Alaska children in 2004, and won the Anchorage Chamber’s Athena Society Award in 2006. She has been a member of the Downtown Anchorage Rotary Club since 1992 (Christen, 2009, Â¶5).
Biographical Information on Judge Cole:
Cole, 56, has been a magistrate and standing master in Kodiak since 2005. He was an attorney and partner in private law firms in Kodiak from 1990-2005. He was a supervising attorney for the Kodiak Public Defender Agency from 1983-90, and a staff attorney for Alaska Legal Services office in Kodiak from 1981-83 (Cole, 2009, Â¶3).
Cole received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California Berkeley in 1974, and a law degree from the University of Colorado’s School of Law at Boulder in 1981 (Cole, 2009, Â¶4).
Cole has been an active member of the Kodiak community, serving as a little league coach, high school varsity girls’ softball coach, and foster parent. Since 1995 he has been founder, board member and longtime benefactor of the Kodiak Teen Court, a program in which youthful criminal offenders can elect to be tried by their peers under the legal training and guidance of adults. Cole is also a past member of the board for the Alaska Legal Services Corporation and the Alaska Pro Bono Corporation, and has taught evening law courses at the University of Alaska’s Kodiak College (Cole, 2009, Â¶5).
Gubernatorial judicial appointment to a State Supreme Court and lower courts is the same type of act as POTUS’ appointment to the Federal Supreme Court, carrying the same ramifications at the state level as POTUS’ appointments do at the Federal. A governor has the same two basic choices when appointing judges: constitutional originalism/constructionism or judicial activism. Thence, it boils down to qualifications. Governor Palin is from the originalism school, so it is natural and expected that her judicial choices will be congruent. A core value of conservatism is avoidance of judicial activism.
Both of Governor Palin’s choices have impressive accomplishments. Notice the extensive international experience of Sarah’s Supreme Court choice. Here again, her sound hiring decisions as an executive is illuminated.
These judicial appointments are a significant accomplishment for Governor Palin and demonstrate her prowess in this area should she seek to do this at the next and largest scale.
Christen named to Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage by Governor Palin. (2009, March 4). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1685
Cole named to Kodiak Superior Court in Kodiak by Governor Palin. (2009, March 4). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1686