In an unprecedented move, Gov. Frank Murkowski has rejected the slate of nominees sent to him by the Alaska Judicial Council to fill a seat on the Anchorage Superior Court, reports the city’s Daily News. The governor told the council in a terse letter dated Thursday he rejected the nominees “after careful consideration” but offered no other explanation. Murkowski reportedly is in New York for the Republican National Convention, and no one in his office was prepared to explain Monday why he rejected the list or what he expects to happen now.
Appointment of judges is a three-step process designed to guard against cronyism. Three of the seven members of the Judicial Council are appointed by the governor, three are named by the Alaska Bar Association, and the seventh member is the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The council evaluates applicants and sends at least two names for each seat to the governor, who makes the appointment. Nine people applied for the seat, and after a long evaluative process, the council voted to send the names of three attorneys to the Republican governor for consideration–one Democrat and two registered nonpartisans. The governor’s official rejection of the nominee list escalates a fight between the Murkowski administration and the Judicial Council that began last year when the governor complained about a list of four nominees sent to him for judgeships in Kenai and Kodiak. He wanted more names to choose from, presumably preferring an applicant who didn’t make the final list.