Friday, March 06, 2009
Palin bucks pressure in Supreme Court appointment
SCRUTINY: Selection went against push from Alaska Family Council.
By LISA DEMER
Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday picked an Anchorage judge to fill the latest vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court despite efforts by a conservative Christian group to convince her to do otherwise.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Morgan Christen, on the bench since 2002, will be just the second woman named to the high court in the 50 years since statehood.
"Alaska's Supreme Court bears the awesome responsibility of ensuring that our court system administers justice in firm accordance with the principles laid down in our state Constitution," Palin said in a written statement. "I have every confidence that Judge Christen has the experience, intellect, wisdom and character to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice."
Under the state Constitution, Palin had to select from among the nominees sent to her by the seven-member Alaska Judicial Council, made up of lawyers, public members appointed by governors and the Supreme Court chief justice, currently Dana Fabe.
Last week, without explaining why, Palin took the unusual step of asking the Judicial Council to send her all information it had on the two finalists, Christen and Palmer Superior Court Judge Eric Smith.
The council nominated them from a slate of six applicants. It takes four council votes for a candidate to be sent to the governor. None of the other candidates received any votes.
The head of the Alaska Family Council -- a Christian pro-family, anti-abortion group -- on Wednesday sent an e-mail to thousands of people asking them to urge Palin to pick Smith, not Christen.
The governor's office received about 100 letters, e-mails and faxes from the public about the Supreme Court appointment, including some from the family council, Palin's spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said in an e-mail. That was not an unusual number, Leighow said.
The family council plea, from group president Jim Minnery, said Smith was "more conservative" and that Christen would be "another activist on the Court." In an interview, Minnery said that was the "general consensus" but he had no specifics.