Defense attorney Julie Willoughby is pictured in the photo from her application to the Alaska Judicial Council. (Alaska Judicial Council | Courtesy photo)

Defense attorney Julie Willoughby is pictured in the photo from her application to the Alaska Judicial Council. (Alaska Judicial Council | Courtesy photo)

Governor backtracks on judge appointment after seeing ‘disturbing’ legal brief

• Previous comments on sexual assault make Walker reconsider selection of Julie Willoughby • Juneau’s Municipal Attorney Amy Mead will take position as Superior Court judge

Comments in an old legal brief prevented a local defense attorney from becoming the state’s newest Juneau Superior Court judge, according to a statement from Gov. Bill Walker’s Chief of Staff Scott Kendall.

Walker initially chose defense attorney Julie Willoughby to fill the vacancy, according to Kendall, but after seeing what Kendall called “disturbing” comments in a previous legal brief, the governor rescinded his offer. The position will instead go to Juneau’s Municipal Attorney Amy Mead, according to a press release from Gov. Bill Walker’s office Monday.

Walker called Willoughby, Kendall said, to inform her of his decision to select her. Shortly afterward, an unnamed staff member showed Walker a legal brief that Willoughby had filed a few years ago, Kendall said in his statement. Walker’s Press Secretary Austin Baird said the case was that of Ty Alexander Grussendorf, the son of a legislative staffer who faced charges of sexual abuse of a minor and attempted sexual abuse of a minor in addition to charges of child pornography possession.

In the brief, Kendall said, Willoughby argued that sexual assaults perpetrated against a 12-year-old girl by an adult man were a “mutually satisfying sexual adventure” and that the child had not been harmed. Willoughby went on in the brief to write that the victim had “solicited” the sexual assaults and that it’s a “legal fiction” that a 12-year-old cannot consent to sex with an adult, according to Kendall’s statement.

“Each of these statements is disturbing individually,” Kendall said in the statement provided to the Empire. “Collectively, these arguments shocked the conscience of Governor Walker and his advisors. The governor understands that criminal defense attorneys must be zealous advocates. In fact, he has previously appointed defense attorneys to judgeships, including to the Alaska Supreme Court. However, an attorney can be zealous without attacking a child victim and misstating statutory rape laws.”

Two hours after his initial call, Walker called Willoughby back to inform her that he was going to select another candidate, Kendall said.

Willoughby did not respond to a phone call from the Empire for comment. Mead declined to comment as well, saying she was not involved in any discussion about whether the position had been offered to Willoughby first.

Grussendorf’s case gained a great deal of attention because Grussendorf, now 23, is the son of a legislative staffer, Tim Grussendorf, who was investigated for potentially unethical attempts to lobby for amendments to sex crime provisions in Senate Bill 91. According to previous Empire reports, Tim Grussendorf unsuccessfully attempted to change the age of offenders from 16 or older to 19 or older, with the victim age being lowered to younger than 12 instead of 13. He worked for Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and the Senate Finance Committee.

According to electronic court records, Ty Grussendorf is slated to stand trial in the case on Oct. 22. Willoughby is no longer representing Grussendorf, according to electronic court records, as Anchorage attorney John P. Cashion has taken the case.

Mead said she got a phone call Saturday morning from the governor’s office informing her that she was Walker’s selection.

“As you can imagine, it was a very exciting call for me,” Mead said. “I was very honored.”

Mead, who began her career as a law clerk in Ketchikan and has been the CBJ municipal attorney since 2013, said she isn’t sure how much longer she’ll be with the city or when she will start. She said the news is very new and the courts system has not contacted her yet about a start date. Menendez’s retirement was effective as of this past Friday, June 29.

The Alaska Judicial Council selected Mead and Willoughby in May as finalists from a pool of seven applicants (10 people initially applied but three withdrew their applications). The council goes through a months-long process to select finalists, including sending out a survey to members of the Alaska Bar Association that asks colleagues to rate applicants on five factors: professional competence, integrity, fairness, judicial temperament and suitability of experience.

Willoughby had the highest overall mean rating on the survey, which is available on the Alaska Judicial Council’s website. She had a 4.3 rating (out of a possible 5), while Mead had the fourth-highest rating (3.7) of the seven applicants.

Walker’s office also announced the appointments of Thomas Temple to the Fairbanks Superior Court and Lance Joanis to the Kenai Superior Court.

“I’m confident Thomas, Amy and Lance are highly qualified to serve as Superior Court judges,” Walker said in the release. “I know they will bring the integrity, honesty and fairness that has defined their careers so far to their new roles. Alaska is lucky to have them, and I am grateful for their willingness to serve.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


City Attorney Amy Mead, pictured here at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting March 20, is Gov. Bill Walker’s selection as Juneau’s next Superior Court judge. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

City Attorney Amy Mead, pictured here at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting March 20, is Gov. Bill Walker’s selection as Juneau’s next Superior Court judge. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 6

Here’s what to expect this week.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 10, 2024

For Wednesday, July 10 Attempt to Serve At 10:06 a.m. on Wednesday,… Continue reading

Commercial fishing boats are lined up at the dock at Seward’s harbor on June 22. Federal grants totaling a bit over $5 million have been awarded to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to help Alaskans sell more fish to more diverse groups of consumers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Federal grants to state agency aim to expand markets for Alaska seafood

More than $5M to help ASMI comes after Gov. Dunleavy vetoed $10M for agency.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds up the omnibus crime bill, House Bill 66, after signing it at a ceremony Thursday at the Department of Public Safety’s aircraft hangar at Lake Hood in Anchorage. At his side are Sandy Snodgrass, whose 22-year-old son died in 2021 from a fentanyl overdose, and Angela Harris, who was stabbed in 2022 by a mentally disturbed man at the public library in Anchorage and injured so badly that she now uses a wheelchair. Snodgrass and Harris advocated for provisions in the bill.Behind them are legislators, law enforcement officers and others. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Goals for new Alaska crime law range from harsher penalties for drug dealers to reducing recidivism

Some celebrate major progress on state’s thorniest crime issues while others criticize the methods.

Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen (left) and Vice President Emil Mackey, holding his son Emil Mackey IV, listen to discussion about next year’s budget for the school district during a meeting March 14 at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. Recall votes for both board members were certified this week for the Oct. 1 municipal election ballot. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Petitions to recall two Juneau school board leaders get enough signatures for Oct. 1 election ballot

President Deedie Sorensen, Vice President Emil Mackey targeted due to school district’s budget crisis.

Most Read