Palin could battle state Supreme Court picks

Legal News Line Feb. 12, 2009, 12:17pm

Sarah Palin (R)

JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a month and a half to choose the next member of Alaska's State Supreme Court.

The problem is the two choices she has to pick from are justices who don't align with her conservative views.

Alaska's judges are selected using the Missouri Plan, which combines election and appointment in choosing the judge. The Alaska Judicial Council selects the nominees from which the governor can then make an appointment. As one conservative Web site explained, "she's boxed in tighter than Florida Gov. Charlie Crist."

A total of six judges applied, but only two were elected by the Judicial Council, Eric Smith, considered very liberal, and Morgan Christen, who is viewed as more of a moderate. Christen and Smith were rated with scores of 4.3 and 4.5 out of a 5 point scale used to elect judges by the council.

The four other nominees scored between 3.7 and 2.4 and were not sent to Palin for consideration.

"The... lawyers control the process," the Web site GOP 12 laments.

Dan Fagan of the Alaska Standard wrote that the time has come for Palin to spend the political capital she acquired as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008.

"She must demand more names from the Judicial Council." Fagan wrote. "Now that Palin is clearly trying to endear herself to the conservative base nationally, fighting for the justice she wants seems like a savvy play for her."

Palin's plate is rather full these days, with the Legislature in session, the state awaiting funds from the Congressional stimulus package and the abrupt resignation of Attorney General Talis Colberg last week.

Palin did not give a specific reason for Colberg's resignation and declined to comment during a press conference on Wednesday. She said the move was his decision.

Colberg had been under fire from legislators grilling him over potential abuse of his power in defending Palin during the investigation over her firing the public safety commissioner.

Palin listed priorities for the current session including progress on an in-state natural gas pipeline and keeping expenses down during this economic downturn, according to published reports.

Alaska could receive $1 billion in federal funds from the Congressional Stimulus package, which Palin said she'd accept if it made sense for the state. But she did criticize the potential expansion of programs that could cost the state in the long run.

"I beg to differ with the premise of this economic stimulus package that it, as a whole, stimulates the economy when you look at the programs that are entailed in this economic stimulus package, the programs that could end up costing a state so much more at the end of the day, those don't necessarily stimulate the economy," Palin said. "Construction projects do. They bring jobs."

Palin has not yet said what she will do regarding the Supreme Court appointment.

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