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Juneau attorney is one of two finalists for Sitka Superior Court seat

The Alaska Judicial Council has named Julie Willoughby one of the two finalists for a vacant judgeship in Sitka Superior Court.

Willoughby, one of Juneau’s top criminal defense attorneys, joins Sitka public defender Jude Pate as a finalist for the position.

Under Alaska’s merit-based judicial selection process, attorneys are vetted by the nonpartisan judicial council, which selects a list of finalists based on their skill and qualifications. The governor will have 45 days to pick either Pate or Willoughby for the seat.

Willoughby declined to comment on her selection when reached by the Empire Tuesday morning. The judicial council voted to forward the names of Willoughby and Pate to the governor after a day of interviews and public comments in Sitka on Monday.

Willoughby was also a finalist for a vacant Juneau District Court seat in 2016; Gov. Bill Walker selected Kirsten Swanson instead.

Pate has lived in Alaska for 24 years and has practiced law for 23 years. He graduated from Lewis &Clark Northwestern School of Law in 1993. Willoughby has lived in Alaska for 32 years and has practiced law for 19 years after having graduated from Stanford Law School in 1998.

Willoughby grew up in Anchorage and left the state for college but decided to complete an electrical apprenticeship instead, she said in a biography submitted as part of her application. She ultimately returned to college and graduated from law school. Returning to Alaska, she worked as a law clerk in the Alaska Supreme Court for judges Allen Compton and Walter Carpeneti. She subsequently switched to clerking for Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins and has also worked as an assistant public defender in Juneau and as an assistant district attorney in Sitka. She has operated her own practice in Juneau for the past eight years.

Pate was born in Nuremberg, Germany to a U.S. Army family, and he grew up in Kansas and Europe. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism but went on to Northwestern for his law degree, according to his official biography. He moved to Sitka in 1993 and worked as the legal counsel for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska until 1999, then switched to private practice for seven years. He has been an assistant public defender in Sitka for the past 12 years.

Pate is married and has two children, he wrote, and the family enjoys playing games, fishing, hunting and gardening.

A survey conducted by the Alaska Bar Association gave Pate and Willoughby high marks for competence, integrity, fairness, judicial temperament and suitability for the job. Pate scored a 4.6 on the scale that goes from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Willoughby received a 4.2 overall; the two had the highest marks of all applicants for the job.

Applicants who failed to make the cut include Gregory Fisher of Anchorage, Lance Joanis of Kenai, Margaret McWilliams of Juneau and David Roghair of Utqiagvik. Fisher withdrew his name from consideration before Monday’s interviews.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

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