Alaska: changes to Judicial Council/merit selection out of House Judiciary Committee; change to selection method of Council members also at play

The effort to let the state’s governor name the majority of the Alaska Judicial Council, which serves as the state’s merit selection commission and judicial performance commission, barely made it out of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. Friday March 14 (the votes were recorded by the legislature on Monday March 17). HJR 33 was amended to not only change the composition of the Council but how members are chosen.

Presently Council members are chosen one of two ways. Attorney members are selected by the governing body of the organized state bar. Non-attorney members are selected by the governor and subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. (The Chief Justice sits ex-officio as chair).

HJR 33, as amended by the House Judiciary Committee would provide ALL members of the expanded Council are subject to legislative confirmation. The Senate version SJR 21 has no such provision and retains the current provision that the attorney members need not be legislatively confirmed. The expanded Council would be made up of a majority of non-lawyers (6) picked by the governor. The attorney member seats would remain at the present 3, giving the governor control over a majority of the Council.

The legislature’s website indicates the amended version of HJR 33 barely made it out of the House Judiciary Committee, receiving only 2 Do Pass votes (both Republican), 1 Do Not Pass (Democrat), and 2 No Recommendation (both Republican).

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