In this file photo, Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe gives the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 11 as Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, left, and Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, listen.

In this file photo, Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe gives the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 11 as Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, left, and Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, listen.

Justice Dana Fabe puts down gavel

After becoming the first woman to serve on the Alaska Supreme Court 20 years ago and the first female Alaska chief justice, Dana Fabe has announced she will retire in June.

The news was announced in an email from the Alaska Court System. It stated Fabe’s retirement will become effective June 1. Fabe announced her retirement early because selecting a replacement typically takes several months.

“She’s going to continue to serve on the court until the end of May,” said Mara Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Court System.

Fabe was traveling to the National Association of Women Judges conference and could not be reached for comment, but Rabinowitz provided a prepared quote from Fabe.

“I look forward to having the time to do many of the other things I enjoy here in Alaska,” Fabe wrote. “I will continue try to assist the court in any way that may be useful, including possible service as a pro-tem justice or mediating cases for the appellate mediation program and the Early Resolution Program, which helps self-represented parties to resolve their family law cases.”

Fabe, appointed to the court by former Gov. Tony Knowles in January 1996, is the third longest-serving justice in Alaska history and has the most seniority on the current court. The next most-senior justice is Daniel Winfree, who was appointed in 2008.

According to state statute, explained Alaska Judicial Council director Susanne DiPietro, the judicial council will vet applications from attorneys across the state. The council has 90 days from Fabe’s retirement date to forward a slate of nominees to Gov. Bill Walker. The governor has 45 days after that to make a selection.

“Really, we never know who’s going to apply,” DiPietro said. “Sometimes it’s a large number of people; sometimes it’s not.”

In 2012, two Alaska Supreme Court justices were appointed by then-Gov. Sean Parnell. In the first case, 14 people applied and the council forwarded two names to the governor. Parnell selected Peter Maassen to replace Morgan Christen.

In the second case, 13 people applied and the council forwarded four names to the governor. That time, Parnell selected Joel Bolger to replace Walter Carpeneti.

DiPietro said the judicial council — a board created by the Alaska Constitution to select judges on merit — will accept applications from attorneys across the state.

“We haven’t done that yet, since it just got announced today,” she said. “The council will solicit applications through its website, mailings to members of the bar and other media avenues.”

Once appointed by the governor, a supreme court justice serves until the first general election held more than three years after the justice’s appointment. In Fabe’s case, that would mean the replacement would serve until 2020. After that term, voters may re-confirm the justice for a full 10-year term. Normally, judicial reconfirmations are uncontroversial affairs, but in 2010 Fabe was the target of a campaign by social conservative group Alaska Family Action, which criticized her stance on rulings regarding abortion, gay marriage, prisoner rights and state benefits for same-sex partners. Fabe was retained with just over 50 percent of the vote.

Fabe was eligible for retirement 4 1/2 years ago but said she stayed on “because I love what I do.”

Fabe is known for creating outreach programs that connected the supreme court with state tribal courts and students across the state. She drove expansion of the Supreme Court LIVE program in which justices hear oral arguments in high schools statewide.

This story has been corrected to address the length of the first term for Fabe’s successor.

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