Family Council Targets Judge Over Social Issues
Urges "No" vote on judge it considers too liberal
ANCHORAGE - Politicians get almost all of the attention before an election, but there are some judges on next month's ballot, too.
And one group is seeking the ouster of a Superior Court judge it says is making the law, rather than interpreting it.
This weekend, the conservative Alaska Family Council sent out an e-mail blast calling on voters in the Third Judicial District to vote against retaining Superior Court Judge Sen Tan for another six years.
Judges are appointed by the governor but periodically must stand for retention.
The Family Council, which tried unsuccessfully to oust Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe two years ago, calls Judge Tan a liberal extremist for ruling against parental consent for a minor's abortion and in favor of public funding of abortions.
"Most people in the state of Alaska don't understand, in our view, that the state constitution was crafted in such a way that the people have the right to vote on these public servants, which they are, as judges, based on whatever reason they want," said the council’s Jim Minnery.
Judges face some restraints that candidates for political office don't.
They can defend themselves only once there's active opposition to them, and even then they are limited in what they can say.
Marla Greenstein, executive director of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, explained: "Judges can't prejudge, so they can't make any statement that would appear to obligate how they would decide a case in the future. Judges have to maintain impartiality and can only decide a matter on the particular facts before them in a court."
But Minnery says Tan does not deserve any sympathy on that point. "He knew exactly what he was getting into, as every other judge willingly places himself in public office that's up for retention or vote."
Minnery says it's about judicial philosophy, not about Tan personally, although he expects a backlash saying otherwise.
But it will be up to voters to judge Tan.
The judicial council has recommended Tan's retention. But that is based on his interactions with lawyers and other court personnel, not on the content of his rulings.
Tan declined requests for comment.