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Palin Judicial Pick Due Today

Palin1 Allow us to deviate from the blogospheric preoccupation with Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy and turn to a matter more telling of her qualifications to hold high office -- her record of judicial appointments. Over the weekend, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft provided a report on Palin's one appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court. Through an Alaska government site, I have found the names of Palin's lower-court appointments. In addition, today is Palin's deadline to nominate a candidate to fill a vacancy on Alaska's Court of Appeals. More on that below.

As Merritt reports at TalkLeft, Palin's one Supreme Court appointment was Daniel E. Winfree. Winfree earned dual law and business degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981 and then practiced privately with firms and on his own in Anchorage, Valdez and Fairbanks. In 2006, he became general counsel and executive director for the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation while also maintaining his own, limited private practice under the name Winfree Law Office. He is a former president of both the Alaska Bar Association (1994 to 1995) and the Western States Bar Conference (1997 to 1998).

Winfree's state judicial application reveals that in 2001, he sought appointment to the U.S. District Court in Alaska. The names of Winfree and other candidates for the position were submitted to a poll of the Alaska bar, and Winfree came in fifth. Only the top three candidates were submitted to President Bush. Of those polled, 13.3 percent said Winfree was "extremely well qualified" to be a federal judge, while 26.6 percent said he was "well qualified" and 16 percent said he was "not qualified." In 2005, he again sought to be considered for a federal court vacancy. This time he finished sixth in the bar poll, but first among private practitioners. His was one of four names submitted to the White House, although the appointment went to the sitting U.S. attorney in Alaska.

While Winfree was Palin's one Supreme Court appointee, she has made 10 appointments to trial court positions, including three women. Her lower-court appointments were:

  • Carl Bauman, Kenai Superior Court. Bauman was formerly a managing partner with the Anchorage firm Hughes Bauman Pfiffner Gorski Seedorf & Odsen, where he had practiced since 1973.
  • Catherine M. Easter, Anchorage District Court. Easter was a career public defender, first with Alaska's public defender office and then its Office of Public Advocacy.
  • David V. George, Sitka Superior Court. George was a sole practitioner in Juneau with a general civil and criminal practice.
  • Marvin Charles Hamilton III, Bethel Superior Court. Hamilton is a former Peace Corps volunteer who became a career public defender, working first in Micronesia and Palau and then in three different regions of Alaska.
  • Sharon A.S. Illsley, Kenai District Court. Illsley was a career prosecutor whose most recent position was in the Anchorage District Attorney's Office handling homicide, robbery and assault cases.
  • Paul Lyle, Fairbanks Superior Court. Lyle came to Alaska as a defense counsel in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. He later served as an assistant state attorney general and as state ethics attorney before going into private practice in 2005.
  • Michael A. MacDonald, Fairbanks Superior Court. MacDonald was a partner in a small Fairbanks firm where he had been since 1985, handling a broad range of civil and criminal cases.
  • Anna M. Moran, Kenai Superior Court. Moran previously worked as a magistrate/standing master with the Alaska court system.
  • Philip M. Pallenberg, Juneau Superior Court. A former supervising public defender in Juneau and Kodiak, Pallenberg went into private practice in 2000 and also became a part-time U.S. magistrate judge.
  • Richard W. Postma Jr., Anchorage District Court. Postma was formerly an assistant attorney general defending the state in employment cases, administrative matters and appeals. Earlier he was a military prosecutor and special assistant U.S. attorney.

Palin is currently considering three names submitted to her to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals. The names were submitted to Palin on July 18 and the 45 days she has to make her selection expires today. The three candidates are Joel Bolger, a sitting Superior Court judge in Kodiak; Susan M. Carney, an assistant public advocate in Fairbanks; and Kevin F. McCoy, an assistant federal defender in Anchorage. In addition, Palin could still get the chance to fill another Supreme Court seat. The Alaska Judicial Council is currently accepting applications to fill the seat of Justice Warren W. Matthews, who retires on April 5, 2009.

So what does all this reveal about Palin's bench-filling proclivities? It is difficult to say, because Alaska's governor must pick from among candidates submitted by the Judicial Council. That said, a review of the applications of the judges she named suggests that her appointments have been based on merit, not politics, and reflect a range of experience in criminal defense, criminal prosecution and civil practice.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 2, 2008 at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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