We are fortunate in Alaska to have a merit selection system for judges embodied in the Alaska Constitution. The state’s Constitutional Convention decided on a three-pronged basis for the selection of our judges. A judicial council (comprised of three non-attorneys appointed in staggered terms by our elected governor with legislative confirmation, three attorneys appointed in staggered terms by Alaska Bar Association Board of Governors and the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court) extensively reviews the qualifications, vets and interviews each applicant to a judicial vacancy. The judicial council sends at least two of the well-qualified candidates to the governor to appoint as the judicial officer. Finally, after 31⁄2 years of the appointment the voting public has an opportunity to vote to retain or not retain each judicial officer. Prior to the retention election, the council does an extensive evaluation of each judge up for retention and makes a recommendation. This is a highly transparent and public process with the results detailed in the state’s election pamphlet. The goal of this merit based process is to create a quality judiciary that is independent of political bias and free from corruption.
On this year’s ballot is Susan M. “Sue” Carney, who has served on the Supreme Court since 2016. The judicial council has unanimously recommended her for retention. I have known Sue since she moved here in the late 1980’s. Not only was she an excellent trial attorney but she continually demonstrated the capacity for fair-minded, independent thought and analysis as she served her clients. She has immersed herself in the Fairbanks community and has elected to remain here after her appointment to the Supreme Court. She and her husband have successfully raised two adopted children. Sue is endowed not only with an excellent mind but with an abundant measure of common sense which is in all-too-short supply in today’s society. We are fortunate to have her on the Supreme Court and she is worthy of retention.
• Mark I. Wood is a Retired Superior Court Judge. Wood resides in Fairbanks.