Why Alaska judges are appointed, but still run for retention in elections

This November 3, Alaskans will go to the polls to choose a president and congressional and state leaders. But there is more on the ballot. In Southcentral, part of the Third Judicial District, voters will see seven District Court judges on the ballot, eight Superior Court judges, one appellate judge and one serving on the Alaska Supreme Court.

On today’s Justice Alaska, three guests explain how framers of the state’s Constitution chose to select judges through a judicial council process focused on merit. The council moves the most qualified candidates forward for consideration by the governor, who makes the appointment.

Citizens have their say by communicating directly with the judicial council, attending hearings on proposed candidates, and ultimately, voting to retain or dismiss judges when they run for retention. The evaluation process includes interviews with jurors, social workers, prosecutors and defense attorneys — which are further opportunities for public input in the evaluation process.

Selecting judges and evaluating them for retention is complicated. The judicial council has seven members. Three come from the general public, three are attorneys, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides but only votes in a tie.

One of the most interesting aspects of today’s program is hearing from a citizen serving his second 6-year term on the judicial council. Dave Parker worked more than two decades as a police officer, 18 years in Anchorage and four in Palmer, before being able to fulfill an interest in serving on the judicial council.

Today’s program was prerecorded due to scheduling reasons, so we will be unable to take calls during the 2 pm or the 8 pm airing. If you email questions to Hometown@alaskapublic.org, we will endeavor to find answers for you.

HOSTS: Kathleen McCoy and Senior Judge Elaine Andrews


  • Susanne DiPietro, executive director of the Alaska Judicial Council
  • Dave Parker, public member of the Alaska Judicial Council, serving his second term


  • About the Alaska Judicial Council, AJC website
  • Find out who is standing for retention in your judicial district, AJC website
  • Review evaluations for judges running for retention, AJC website
  • Comment on judges’ performance here, AJC website
  • Read some of the research publications written by judicial council staff, website
  • Alaska Judicial Council Facebook page for current events


  • Because this program was pre-recorded for scheduling reasons, the hosts cannot take calls at 2:00 pm or at 8:00 pm.
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the broadcast and we will seek answers to your questions
  • Post your comment or question below
  • Pre-recorded October 2 to air: Monday, October 19, 2020 at 2:00 p.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, October 19, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

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