Last week, amid all the hullabaloo about vetoes and mistaken non-vetoes, Gov. Mike Dunleavy went to pick yet another fight with the judiciary and demanded the Alaska Judicial Council send him someone else to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court.
Like he did with his accidental non-veto of one of the biggest single lines in the entire state budget, Dunleavy today relented in his fight with the judiciary and selected Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson to the Alaska Supreme Court. Henderson takes the seat of retiring Chief Justice Joel Bolger.
Henderson was one of three nominees put forward by the nonpartisan Alaska Judicial Council, which also included Anchorage Superior Court judges Dani Crosby and Yvonne Lamoureux. Henderson has had a number of high-level cases dealing with the Dunleavy administration in recent years, including a ruling that found the Dunleavy had violated the constitution by vetoing court funding over a ruling that struck down an anti-abortion case and ordered the state pay back $334,700 to the Alaska Court System.
Dunleavy’s attempt to circumvent the judicial appointment process laid out in the Alaska Constitution isn’t new. Early in his tenure, he refused to appoint a judge by the 45-day time limit that prompted a chiding from Chief Justice Bolger and would later become grounds for the recall against him. His latest ask for the Alaska Judicial Council to go back to the drawing board isn’t even an option for the council, which is not allowed to reconsider nominees unless there’s a death or withdrawal.
In a letter to the council, Dunleavy wrote “the slate of candidates put forward could be expanded to reflect the balance and diversity in philosophy and Alaskan experience requisite to adequately make a fair choice for the people of Alaska” and singled out Kotzebue Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman as a representative for rural Alaska. Roetman scored sixth out of the seven applicants on the Alaska Bar Association’s survey, which factors heavily into the council’s decision making. Roetman swore Dunleavy in during a haphazard inauguration.
Dunleavy’s announcement of his selection of Henderson was a terse, three-sentence announcement that made no mention to his earlier consternation.