Eight apply for Alaska Supreme Court vacancy

Eight candidates have applied to fill a vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court. The vacancy will occur when Justice Craig Stowers retires on June 1, 2020.

Stowers was appointed to the court in 2009 by Governor Sean Parnell (R). Before that, he was a judge on the Alaska Third Judicial District Court from 2004 to 2009, an attorney in private practice from 1987 to 2004, and a law clerk to Alaska Supreme Court Justice Warren Matthews from 1986 to 1987 and to Judge Robert Boochever on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit from 1985 to 1986. He received his undergraduate degree in biology, with honors, from Blackburn College in 1975 and his J.D. from the University of California Davis in 1985.

The five justices of the Alaska Supreme Court are each appointed by the governor from a list of two or more nominees compiled by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC). New justices serve an initial term of at least three years, after which the justice must stand for retention in an uncontested yes-no election to remain on the bench. Subsequent terms last ten years. The AJC is an independent state commission, established by the Alaska Constitution, that is responsible for screening applicants for judicial vacancies. The AJC has seven members–three lawyers, three nonlawyers, and the chief justice of the state supreme court.

The following eight individuals applied to fill the upcoming vacancy:

  • Dario Borghesan: A chief assistant attorney general in Anchorage, Alaska. Borghesan graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2008.
  • Judge Dani Crosby: A superior court judge in Anchorage. Crosby graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1996.
  • Kate Demarest: A senior assistant attorney general in Anchorage. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2008.
  • Judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson: A superior court judge in Anchorage. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2001.
  • Judge Yvonne Lamoureux: A superior court judge in Anchorage. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2003.
  • Margaret Paton Walsh: A chief assistant attorney general in Anchorage. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2004.
  • Judge Paul A. Roetman: A superior court judge in Kotzebue, Alaska. He graduated from Regent University School of Law in 1999.
  • Judge Jonathan Woodman: A superior court judge in Palmer, Alaska. He graduated from the Ohio State University College of Law in 1993.

The Alaska Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. In addition to Stowers, it includes the following justices:

  • Daniel Winfree – Appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
  • Joel Harold Bolger – Appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell (R)
  • Peter Jon Maassen – Appointed by Gov. Parnell
  • Susan Carney – Appointed by Gov. Bill Walker (I)

In 2020, there have been eight supreme court vacancies in seven of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Four vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Three are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.

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Additional reading:
State supreme court vacancies, 2020
Judicial selection in Alaska
Alaska Supreme Court
Alaska Judicial Council