Former Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers died late on Thursday.
Stowers had retired in 2020 after 11 years on the court. He was chief justice for three years, from 2015 to 2018, and a Superior Court judge for five years before becoming a justice.
Stowers had also worked as a park ranger in Denali National Park before studying law.
Current Chief Justice Daniel Winfree was on the Supreme Court the entire time that Stowers was a justice. He described Stowers as kind and diligent, the type of colleague who treated everyone like family.
“Craig was a wonderful colleague: incredibly smart, of course, very hard working, always prepared and — with a lot of his life experiences — had lots of fun stories to tell and had a great sense of humor,” Winfree said.
Winfree also praised Stowers’ approach to his work.
“He was always very knowledgeable about the underlying facts of a case, very diligent in making sure that he understood the law, and was very accomplished in our discussions around the table, arguing our various points of view about this and that — and trying to come to a consensus,” he said. “He was just a very strong justice.”
Winfree said Stowers considered those who worked in the court system to be a family.
“He would make sure that he got around to say hello to people in the various courthouses,” Winfree said.
He said this was particularly true for the troopers who work at the courthouses.
Winfree recalled a favorite topic of conversation with Stowers was the trips he would take with his wife, Monique.
“They would talk about where they were going to go and take a vacation for a week — some cabin somewhere and maybe down on the water to do some fishing,” Winfree said.
Matt Peterson founded a law firm with Stowers in the mid-1990s. He said Stowers applied his strengths as a lawyer to being a judge.
“He really was an asset to Alaska, not just the legal community, but the entire state,” Peterson said.
One of Stowers’ more prominent opinions in recent years was when he dissented in part from the rest of the court in its decision to allow the attempt to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy to move forward.
He agreed with the other justices’ analysis of two of the four grounds for recall. But he wrote that by allowing the two other grounds for recall to move forward, the court made it possible for recall attempts over policy differences. He wrote the decision undermined the state constitution and the separation of powers between the branches of government.