Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger speaks to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, listen from the Speaker’s desk in the House of Representatives. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger speaks to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, listen from the Speaker’s desk in the House of Representatives. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Technology, judgeship changes highlight State of Judiciary

Live updates from Alaska’s Capitol.

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019 3:57pm
  • News

2:55 p.m.

Our full story on Bolger’s State of the Judiciary speech went live about an hour and a half ago, detailing Bolger’s technology topics and other changes he hopes to see in the state’s court system moving forward.

Read that story here.

— Alex McCarthy

11:27 a.m.

That was quick. The speech comes in at just under 18 minutes. Lots of talk of technology in there.

— Alex McCarthy

11:25 a.m.

Bolger says the court system has been putting together a system called the Legal Navigator, which is an online tool that will help defendants figure out what their resources and options are. They expect this to be available this year, he says.

— Alex McCarthy

11:19 a.m.

Bolger details many of the changes in recent years to save money, including closing courts on Friday afternoons. Bolger says the court system didn’t ask for the money to reopen the courts on Fridays, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy made it clear that he wanted to fund opening courts on Fridays.

Therefore, the court system updated its budget request to include reopening on Friday afternoons. As you saw below, this will cost about $3.1 million.

— Alex McCarthy

11:15 a.m.

Bolger says there are 43 Superior Court judges in the state, and in 2018 there were 24,000 cases in the state’s Superior Court. That’s 500-650 cases per Superior Court judge, he says. There are 22 District Court judges, he says, and there were 98,000 filings in District Courts around the state last year.

He says this may seem like a lot of stats, but he says he’s very proud of these judges.

— Alex McCarthy

11:09 a.m.

Bolger’s here. Let’s get into it.

He starts by introducing former Chief Justice Craig Stowers. Stowers is still on the Supreme Court, but his term as chief justice ended in 2018.

— Alex McCarthy

Capitol Live: Technology, judgeship changes highlight State of Judiciary

11:05 a.m.

We’re waiting for Bolger to get here on the House floor and deliver his annual address.

Read a little more about him here: Alaska Supreme Court elects new chief justice

— Alex McCarthy

10:52 a.m.

After an uneventful Senate floor session, we’re in recess until the State of the Judiciary address in a few minutes from Chief Justice Joel Bolger. Stay tuned.

— Alex McCarthy

10:25 a.m.

Sen. Mike Shower is “really concerned” some rural communities would not “physically make it” through the winter without Marine Highway System.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he wants to make reductions but he’s not sure how to get there. He likened these some of the proposed cuts to eliminating parachutes without figuring out another way of getting to the ground safely.

— Kevin Baird

10:20 a.m.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, is curious how Alaska gets the Marine Highway System running again if its shut down. Stedman says he has a “concept problem.” Wonders if there will need to be a special session or supplemental budget bill needed to relaunch the Marine Highway System.

— Kevin Baird

10:15 a.m.

The “gentleman from the judiciary branch” I referred to earlier is Doug Wooliver. He is the Deputy Administrative Director of the Alaska Court System.

— Kevin Baird

10:07 a.m.

The Alaska Marine Highway System hit its peak in the 1990s, according to Amanda Holland of the Department of Transportation.

— Kevin Baird

10 a.m.

“Senator Wielechowski, do you want to ask a question so the blood pressure of the chairman goes down,” Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, says. Stedman is a co-chair of the Finance Committee. Stedman just spent the last 10 – 15 minutes asking a DOT official questions about the Alaska Marine Highway System, here in the Finance Committee room.

— Kevin Baird

9:50 a.m.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, has a “litany of questions” about the Alaska Marine Highway System. Stedman seems concerned about the AMHS employees who would be out of a job this fall, should the budget pass as is. He wonders why the elimination of AMHS job positions is not noted in this presentation.

— Kevin Baird

9:41 a.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget would propose cutting the following from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities:

• Cutting $97.98 million from the Alaska Marine Highway System.

• A travel reduction of $694,100 for DOT employees.

• Cutting $46,900 from the rural airport evaluation.

— Kevin Baird

Doug Wooliver, Deputy Administrative Director for the Alaska Court System, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee about a proposed boost in its budget on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Doug Wooliver, Deputy Administrative Director for the Alaska Court System, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee about a proposed boost in its budget on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

9:35 a.m.

In 2018, Alaska saw the most felony court filings of any year in state history. The judiciary branch will need to be open Friday afternoons to work through those cases. This is according to the gentleman from the judiciary branch who is speaking to Senate Finance.

— Kevin Baird

9:30 a.m.

It would cost approximately $3.1 million to reopen the courts on Friday afternoons in Alaska. This appropriation is proposed in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget.

— Kevin Baird

9:15 a.m.

Senate Finance Committee co-chair, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, encouraged the committee to hold off on irrelevant questions so these Office of Management and Budget presentations would move faster.

— Kevin Baird

9:05 a.m.

Budget discussions are underway in a Senate Finance meeting that started at 9 a.m. The House will also hold a finance meeting at 1:30 p.m.

There will also be a joint session for the State of the Judiciary Address by Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger at 11 a.m. in the House chambers.

— Mollie Barnes

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, raises his concerns of the proposed lack of funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Major cuts to fuel for the ferries could effectively shut the transportation system down. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, raises his concerns of the proposed lack of funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Major cuts to fuel for the ferries could effectively shut the transportation system down. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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