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Article I - Policies

Section 1. Concerning Selection of Justices, Judges, and Public Defender

The Judicial Council shall endeavor to nominate for judicial office and for public defender those judges and members of the bar who stand out as most qualified based upon the Council’s consideration of their: professional competence, including written and oral communication skills; integrity; fairness; temperament; judgment, including common sense; legal and life experience; and demonstrated commitment to public and community service. The Council shall actively encourage qualified members of the bar to seek nomination to such offices, shall endeavor to prevent political considerations from outweighing fitness in the judicial and public defender nomination processes, and shall consistently strive to inform the public of Alaska’s Judicial Council selection process.


Section 2. Concerning Retention of Judges

Pursuant to the provisions of Alaska Statutes Titles 15 and 22, the Council may recommend the retention in judicial office of incumbent justices and judges found to be qualified through appropriate means of judicial performance assessment; and may recommend against retention of justices and judges found to be not qualified through assessment processes. The Council shall endeavor to prevent political considerations from outweighing fitness in the judicial retention recommendation process.


Section 3. Concerning Administration of Justice

The Council shall initiate studies and investigations for the improvement of the administration of justice. These studies and investigations may be conducted by the entire Council, by any of its members or by its staff as directed by the Council. The Council may hire researchers and investigators and may contract for the performance of these functions. A topic for any study or investigation may be proposed at any meeting of the Council by any member without prior notice.

Article II - Membership

Section 1. Appointment; Limitation of Term

Members of the Council shall be appointed and shall serve their terms as provided by law; however, a member whose term has expired shall continue to serve until a successor has been appointed. Council members may be appointed to successive terms; however, no Council member should serve more than two full terms or one unexpired term and one full term.


Section 2. Effective Date of Appointment

(A) Non-Attorney Members. The effective date of a non-attorney member's appointment to the Council shall be the day following the effective date of the vacancy in the seat to which appointed, if appointed before that date; or the date of or specified in the gubernatorial letter of appointment, if appointed after that date. Non-attorney members shall have full voting rights effective upon the appointment date, unless and until denied confirmation by the legislature.


(B) Attorney Members. The effective date of an attorney member's appointment shall be the day following the effective date of the vacancy in the seat to which appointed, if appointed before that date; or the date of or specified in the letter of appointment from the board of governors of the Alaska Bar Association, if appointed after that date.


(C) Chief Justice. When the supreme court elects a new chief justice, the newly elected chief begins serving as a member and chair of the Council immediately upon assuming the office of chief justice.


Section 3. Oath of Office

The chair of the Council shall administer the oath of office to each new member, following a determination by the Council that the person selected has met the qualifications for membership as set forth by law.


Section 4. Vacancies

At least 90 days prior to the expiration of the term of any Council member, or as soon as practicable following the death, resignation, or announced intent to resign of any Council member, the executive director shall notify the appropriate appointing authority and request that the appointment process be initiated immediately to fill the vacancy.


Section 5. Disqualification

(A) Candidacy of Council Member. Any member of the Judicial Council who seeks appointment to a judicial office or the office of public defender must resign from the Council as of the date of the application and should not accept reappointment to the Council for a period of two years thereafter.


(B) Attendance at Regular Meetings. Council members shall attend all regular meetings of the Council unless excused by the chair for good cause. If a member is absent without good cause for two consecutive meetings, the chair shall formally request the resignation of that member.


Section 6. Expenses; Compensation

Council members shall be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred while on Council business and may receive compensation as otherwise provided by law.

Article III - Officers

Section 1. Officers Specified

(A) The officers of the Council shall be the chair, vice-chair and executive director.


(B) Chair. The Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court is the chair of the Alaska Judicial Council.


(C) Vice-Chair. The vice-chair will be the member of the Judicial Council whose current term will first expire.


(D) Executive Director. The Council by concurrence of four or more of its members may designate an executive director to serve at the pleasure of the Council.


Section 2. Duties and Powers

(A) Chair. The chair shall preside at all meetings of the Council and perform such other duties as may be assigned by the Council. In the absence of an executive director or acting director, the chair will serve as acting director.


(B) Vice-Chair. The vice-chair shall preside at meetings of the Council in the absence of the chair. The vice-chair shall perform such other duties as usually pertain to the office of the chair when the chair is unavailable to perform such functions.


(C) Executive Director. The executive director shall keep a record of all meetings of the Council; shall serve as chief executive officer of the Council; shall be responsible to the Council for planning, supervising and coordinating all administrative, fiscal and programmatic activities of the Council; and shall perform such other duties as may be assigned. The executive director may receive compensation as prescribed by the Council and allowed by law.


(D) Acting Director. In the event of the incapacity, disability, termination or death of the executive director, the Council may appoint an acting director, and may impose such limits on the authority of said acting director as it deems advisable, until such time as a new executive director can be found, or until such time as the incapacity of the executive director can be cured. Should the Council choose not to appoint an acting director or otherwise fail to appoint, the chair of the Council will, ex officio, serve as acting director until a replacement can be found.

Article IV - Meetings

Section 1. Public Sessions; Public Notice

All meetings of the Judicial Council shall be open to the public, except as specifically provided. At least three days before any meeting to be held in Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Juneau, public notice of date, time, and place of the meeting and of general topics to be considered shall be given through paid advertisements in major newspapers of general circulation in all three cities; for meetings to be held elsewhere in the state, paid public notice shall be provided at least three days in advance in the newspaper or newspapers of general circulation in such other areas as well as in the newspapers of general circulation in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Absent sufficient funding or when the notice requirements of this section are determined by the Council to be unreasonable, the Council is authorized to meet after such other period and utilizing such other form of public notice as it deems reasonable under the circumstances and which are consistent with the Council's legal obligations..


Section 2. Participation by Telecommunications

The Judicial Council shall meet in person when practicable. The Council may conduct a teleconference between regularly scheduled meetings with the consent of the chair. A teleconference conducted between regularly scheduled meetings is subject to the notice requirements in Article IV, Section 1 and Article IV, Section 8.


A member may participate telephonically in a regularly scheduled meeting only if the chair has found good cause to excuse the member from attending in person. A member may only participate telephonically if the member has had a substantially equal opportunity to evaluate all meeting materials, testimony, and other evidence related to the meeting.


Teleconferencing may be used to receive public input and to establish a quorum. At least one member or staff person must be present at the time and location publicly announced for any meeting or teleconference conducted by the Council.


Section 3. Regular Meetings

The Council shall hold two or more meetings per year, at times designated by the Council, to consider problems that may affect the Council and concern the administration of justice in the State of Alaska.


Section 4. Special Meetings

When a vacancy in the office of justice, judge, or public defender actually occurs or is otherwise determined to be impending, the chair shall call a special meeting of the Judicial Council within the time-frame required by law. The chair shall also call a special meeting of the Council upon the request of four or more members to consider business specified in the request; at that meeting, the Council may also consider other business that may come before the Council with the consent of four or more of the members present. The chair shall fix the time and place of such meeting not more than thirty days from the date of receipt of such request.


Section 5. Public Hearings

The Council may hold public hearings on all matters relating to the administration of justice as it deems appropriate and in such places as it determines advisable.


Section 6. Executive Sessions

The Council may decide as permitted by law whether its proceedings will be conducted in executive session. The Council may make this decision by concurrence of four or more members in a session open to the public. No subjects may be considered at the executive session except those mentioned in the motion calling for the executive session, unless auxiliary to the main question. The Council may not vote in an executive session.


Section 7. Place of Meeting

To the extent practicable, meetings should be held in the area of the State most directly affected by the subject matter under consideration.


Section 8. Notice of Meeting: Waiver

Notice of each meeting and teleconference shall be sent to all members of the Council as far in advance as practicable but in any event not less than five days before the date of the meeting or teleconference. Presence at a meeting or teleconference without objection shall constitute waiver of notice. When this notice requirement is determined by the chair to be unreasonable, the Council may meet on shorter notice.

Article V - Voting and Quorum

Section 1. Voting

All members of the Council present shall be entitled to vote on all matters coming before the Council, except as provided in Section 2 of this article and except that the chair shall only vote when to do so could change the result. The Council shall act by concurrence of four or more members. All votes shall be taken in public session. Any member can vote in the affirmative or negative or abstain on any matter. A member who wishes to abstain shall indicate the intention to do so prior to the question being called and shall disclose the reasons for the proposed abstention.


Section 2. Conflict of Interest; Disqualification

No member may vote on any matter in which he or she has a substantial personal or pecuniary interest. Any member who believes that his or her personal or business relationship to any applicant for a judicial or public defender vacancy or to any judge or justice being evaluated for retention purposes might prevent the member from fairly and objectively considering the qualifications of such person, or might otherwise involve a conflict of interest or create the appearance thereof, shall disclose the circumstances of the actual or apparent conflict to the Council and shall disqualify himself or herself from discussing or voting on the nomination or retention of that person.


Section 3. Quorum

Four members of the Council shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting.


Section 4. Rules of Order

Robert's Rules of Order Revised will govern the meetings of the Council to the extent that they do not conflict with these bylaws.

Article VI - Committees

Section 1. Standing Committees

The Council may establish such standing committees from time to time when it finds them useful to conduct Council business. The chair may make standing committee assignments annually. The function of each committee shall be to monitor Council activities between meetings, to provide guidance and advice to staff, and to report to the Council at regularly scheduled meetings about the committees' areas of oversight. Each committee shall include at least one attorney and one non-attorney member. To the maximum extent possible, Council members should be permitted to serve on the committee or committees of their choice.


Section 2. Ad Hoc Committees

The chair may create ad hoc committees from time to time as needed. Ad hoc committees shall report to the Council on their activities and may make recommendations for Council action.

Article VII - Procedure for Submitting Judicial and Public Defender Nominations to the Governor

Section 1. Notice of Vacancy; Recruitment

Whenever a vacancy to be filled by appointment exists, or is about to occur, in any supreme court, court of appeals, superior court, or district court of this state, or in the office of public defender, the Council, by mail or by such other publication means as may be appropriate, shall notify all active members of the Alaska Bar Association of the vacancy, and shall invite applications from qualified judges or other members of the bar of this state for consideration by the Council for recommendation to the governor. Council members may also encourage persons believed by such members to possess the requisite qualifications for judicial or public defender office to submit their applications for consideration and may cooperate with judicial selection committees of the state or local bar associations or of such other organizations as may be appropriate in the identification and recruitment of potential candidates.


Section 2. Application Procedure

Each applicant for a judicial or chief public defender position shall obtain and complete an application for appointment provided by the Council and shall comply with all the requirements therein. Such application may request such information as deemed appropriate to a determination of qualification for office, including but not limited to the following: family and marital history; bar and/or judicial discipline history; criminal record; involvement as a party in litigation; credit history; physical and mental condition and history; community activities; academic and employment history; military record; and representative clientele.


Section 3. Evaluation and Investigation of Applicants' Qualifications.

(A) Judicial Qualifications Polls. The Judicial Council may conduct judicial qualifications polls in such form and manner as may be prescribed by the Council and cause the same to be circulated among the members of the Alaska Bar Association. The poll should be relevant to criteria listed in Article 1, Section 1 of these bylaws. If the Alaska Bar Association conducts a qualifications poll satisfactory to the Council, the Council may recognize such poll. The Judicial Council may conduct such other surveys and evaluations of candidates' qualifications as may be deemed appropriate.


(B) Investigation. The Council and its staff shall investigate the background, experience, and other qualifications of an applicant under consideration for a judicial or a public defender vacancy, and may call witnesses before it for such purposes.


(C) Candidate Interviews; Expenses. The Council may, when and where it deems desirable, conduct a personal interview with one, some, or all applicants for any judicial or public defender vacancy. Candidates requested to appear before the Council for such interviews shall appear in person; when, however, a candidate for good cause shown is unable to personally attend such interview, the Council may arrange for an interview by telephone or other electronic communication means with such applicant, and such alternative interview as may be appropriate, including but not limited to interview of such candidate by a committee of the Council at such other time and place as may be convenient. A candidate may choose to be interviewed publicly or in executive session, to protect the candidate’s privacy interests consistent with Alaska’s Open Meetings Act. The choice to interview publicly or in executive session will have no bearing on the Council’s evaluation of the candidate’s qualifications.


A candidate's expenses for judicial or public defender office are that candidate's responsibility. The Council may reimburse candidates for travel expenses in the Council's discretion. The cost of a telephone interview requested by the Council shall be paid by the Council.


Section 4. Nomination Procedure; Recommendation of Best Qualified Candidates

The Council shall select two or more candidates who stand out as the most qualified under the criteria set out in Article I, Section 1 of these bylaws, considering (a) other candidates who have applied; (b) the position applied for; and (c) the community in which the position is to be located. The names of the selected candidates shall be submitted to the governor in alphabetical order; but if the Council’s vote does not result in selecting at least two applicants who are sufficiently qualified, the Council shall decline to submit any names and will re-advertise the position.


Section 5. Reconsideration

The Council will not reconsider the names submitted to the governor after the nominees are submitted unless the disability or death of one or more nominees leaves the governor with less than two names for filling a judicial vacancy. If the governor requests additional nominees in such a situation, the Council will submit additional names so that the governor has at least two nominees for each vacancy. The Council may select additional names from the original applicants for the position or may re-advertise for the position.


Section 6. Publication and Review of Procedures

The Council shall establish and follow written forms and procedures for the nomination of attorneys who apply to be justices, judges, and public defender. The Council shall publish the bylaws and procedures in its biennial report to the Alaska Supreme Court and legislature, post them on its website, and provide them to applicants. The Council shall review these procedures at intervals not to exceed three years.

Article VIII - Review of Judicial Performance

Section 1. Retention Election Evaluation

Prior to each general election in which one or more justices or judges has expressed the intention to be a candidate for retention election, the Council shall conduct evaluations of the qualifications and performance of such justices and judges and shall make the results of evaluations public. Evaluations may be based upon the results of a judicial performance survey conducted among all active members of the Alaska Bar Association and other members, retired or inactive, that the Council chooses. Evaluations also may be based upon such other surveys, interviews, or research into judicial performance as may be deemed appropriate, including but not limited to, any process that encourages expanded public participation and comment regarding candidate qualifications.


Section 2. Recommendation

Based upon the evaluative data, the Council may recommend that any justice or judge either be retained or not be retained. The Council may actively support the candidacy of every incumbent judge recommended to be retained, and may actively oppose the candidacy of every incumbent judge whom it recommends not be retained. The Council shall publicize its recommendations.


Section 3. Judicial Performance Evaluation

The Council may conduct such additional evaluations of judges, other than at the time of retention elections, at such times and in such a manner as may be appropriate, and make the results of such additional evaluations public.


Section 4. Publication and Review of Procedures

The Council shall establish and follow written procedures for the evaluation of justices and judges. The Council shall publish the procedures in its biennial report to the Alaska Supreme Court and legislature, post them on its website, and provide them to justices and judges. The Council shall review these procedures at intervals not to exceed four years.

Article IX - Extra-Council Communications

Members of the public may wish to communicate their thoughts about the qualifications of applicants and the performance of judicial officers to individual Council members. All written communications between a Council member and any other person or organization regarding the qualifications of any applicant or the performance of any judicial officer should be forwarded to all other members; all oral communications regarding such matters should be shared with other members. Council members may encourage people to communicate with the Council in writing or at a public hearing.


Council members may discuss their individual views about the qualifications of applicants and the performance of judicial officers with members of the public, including the applicants and judicial officers. Council members may not publicly discuss the views of other Council members about the qualifications of applicants and the performance of judicial officers. Communications and deliberations among Council members that occur in executive session, including discussion about the qualifications of an applicant or the performance of a judicial officer shall be kept confidential in accordance with the law and Council bylaws.

Article X - Access to Council Records

Section 1. Public Records

All records of the Judicial Council, unless confidential or privileged, are public as provided in AS 40.25.110. The public shall have access to all public records in accordance with AS 40.25.120. Public Records include:

  1. Council bylaws and policy statements;
  2. Minutes of Council meetings;
  3. Final Council reports;
  4. Financial accounts and transactions;
  5. Library materials; and
  6. All records other than those excepted in this bylaw.

Section 2. Right to Privacy

Materials that, if made public, would violate an individual's right to privacy under Art. I, Section 22 of the Alaska Constitution shall be confidential. Confidential materials are not open for public inspection and include:

  1. Solicited communications relating to the qualifications of judicial or public defender vacancy applicants, or judicial officers;
  2. Unsolicited communications relating to the qualifications of a judicial or public defender applicant or judicial officer, where the source requests confidentiality;
  3. Those portions of the "application for judicial appointment" and "judge questionnaire" that reveal sensitive personal information entitled to protection under law;
  4. Investigative research materials and internal communications that reveal sensitive personal information entitled to protection under law; and
  5. Contents of Council employees' and members' personnel records, except that dates of employment, position titles, classification and salaries of present and/or past state employment for all employees are public information. In addition, application forms, resumes and other documents submitted to the Judicial Council in support of applications for any position with the Council grade 16 or above are public information.

Section 3. Deliberative Process

Materials that are part of the deliberative process of the Judicial Council, including those prepared by Council employees, are privileged and confidential if their disclosure would cause substantial and adverse effects to the Council that outweigh the need for access. These materials generally include drafts and computations prior to final document approval, internal memoranda conveying personal opinions, and other pre-decisional documents not incorporated into public records under this bylaw.


Section 4. Other Information

Information required or authorized to be kept confidential by law is not a public record.


Section 5. Privileged Communications

Communications that are legally privileged are not public information. These communications include but are not limited to communications between the Council and its attorney made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the Council.


Section 6. Release of Information

If a record contains both disclosable and nondisclosable information, the nondisclosable information will be deleted and the disclosable information will be disclosed. Information that otherwise would not be disclosable may be released to the subject of that information or to the public if it is in a form that protects the privacy rights of individuals and does not inhibit candid debate during the decision-making process.

Article XI - Office of Judicial Council

The Council shall designate an office of the Council in such location as it deems appropriate. Records and files of the Council's business shall be maintained by the Executive Director at this location.

Article XII - Appropriations

The Council will seek such appropriations of funds by the Alaska Legislature and other funding sources as it deems appropriate to carry out its constitutional and statutory functions.

Article XIII - Bylaw Review and Amendment

The Council shall review these bylaws at intervals not to exceed six years. These bylaws may be altered or amended by the Judicial Council by concurrence of four or more members, provided reasonable notice of proposed amendments has been provided to all Council members.


These bylaws adopted by the Alaska Judicial Council, this 15th day of February 1966; amended November 10, 1966; June 18, 1970; March 30, 1972; February 15, 1973; May 26, 1983; December 10, 1986; March 19, 1987; January 14, 1989; November 2, 1993; June 26, 1996; December 9, 1996; September 23-24, 1997; July 6-7, 1998; July 15, 2002; September 22, 2005; November 28, 2005; January 31, 2006; October 14, 2006; January 22, 2012; October 9, 2013.

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