ILNews

Indiana attorney fights Alaska's merit selection

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

ADVERTISEMENT