Thirty-two states have constitutionally mandated retirement ages for state supreme court justices. Twenty of those states mandate retirement at 70 years of age. Alaska is one of them, and four of the five justices on the Alaska Supreme Court will be required to retire between February 2023 and February 2025.
Regarding the upcoming turnover of the Alaska Supreme Court, Justice Craig Stowers declared that he will retire on June 1, 2020. He said that “a turnover of this magnitude would cause great disruption in the Court’s ability to accomplish all that it is charged to do.” He said that such turnover “would be devastating for the court, the Alaska court system, and ultimately the people of Alaska.”
Justice Daniel Winfree will face mandatory retirement in 2023. Justices Peter Maassen and Joel Bolger will face mandatory retirement in 2025.
Alaska uses the Assisted Appointment method to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The Alaska Judicial Council receives applications to fill the vacancy and may choose two or more of those applicants to suggest to the governor for nomination. The Alaska Judicial Council is composed of three lawyer members appointed by the governor and approved by the state legislature, three non-lawyer members appointed by the state Bar Association, and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court who acts as ex officio chair of the council.
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. The Alaska Judicial Council publishes judicial performance reviews for retention elections and may recommend that any justice or judge either be retained or not be retained.
Eight individuals applied to fill the position:
• 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.
• Attorney 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.
• Attorney 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.