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Indiana attorney fights Alaska's merit selection

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A Terre Haute attorney has filed a federal suit challenging the merit-selection system in Alaska, arguing the state bar association has unconstitutional control over the judicial nominating commission and takes away the people's right to choose their judges.

Filed July 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, the complaint from two of Alaska's registered voters and a former judicial candidate alleges that their 14th Amendment right to vote is being violated by how the state's merit-selection system is set up. The complaint Hinger v. Carpeneti, et al., No. 3:2009-CV-00136, comes following the April announcement that Alaska Justice Robert Eastaugh is retiring Nov. 2 and the nominating council and governor must appoint a successor.

In Alaska, a seven-member Judicial Selection Council makes recommendations to the governor, who makes the final decision on a judge or justice. Of those seven members, the chief justice is the chair while three are non-lawyers appointed by the governor and confirmed by lawmakers, and three are lawyers appointed by the Alaska Bar Association's governing board.

The merit-selection system used in Alaska is similar to what's used in Indiana, with a few differences. The governor's three non-lawyer appointments must get legislative confirmation in Alaska, while that isn't required in Indiana. The Alaska Bar Association's governing board appoints the attorneys generally, while in Indiana lawyers in each of the three appellate courts' geographic areas choose a representative. Merit selection is also used for the Alaskan trial courts, where in Indiana it's used solely at the appellate levels and trial courts in Lake and St. Joseph counties.

In the complaint, Bopp argues that the plaintiffs are excluded from voting for a controlling majority of the bar association's governing board.

"While the Board of Governors may serve other functions that substantially and disproportionately affect only bar association members, in so far as the Board is given the power to select members of the Alaska Judicial Council, the election of Board members must comport with the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause," the complaint says. "Because it does not, the power exercised by the three attorney members of the council violates the equal protection clause with respect to Plaintiffs' right to vote."

The complaint and an accompanying injunction motion asks the District Court to declare the state constitution provisions unconstitutional, either on their face or as applied to the current impending vacancy. The motion also asks that the chief justice and remaining four members of the Alaska Judicial Council be stopped from following a requirement that a vote be unanimous among the remaining four members.

A copy of the full complaint and preliminary injunction motion are posted online at the James Madison Center for Free Speech.

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  1. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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