Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers, on Wednesday, asked state lawmakers for an additional superior court judge for the Juneau District Court. It was part of his annual speech to the Legislature, his third and final as the panel’s chief justice.

Stowers focused largely on his commitment to ensuring caseloads are efficiently handled statewide while paying attention to increasingly tight budgets.

Stowers, however, stressed the need for the Juneau District to add a superior court judge.

This would be accomplished using a pending district judge opening for a superior court judge post.

Stowers said it was necessary because the growing caseload has forced superior court judges from other courts to travel to Juneau.

A superior court judge can handle any trial court case. The district judge has limited jurisdiction. Stowers also assured lawmakers he would not seek additional funding.

“What we ask is not unusual,” Stowers told the Legislature in a 27-minute speech. “There are other courts in Alaska where there is no district court judge and the resident superior court judge handles both superior court cases and district court cases.

“These incremental costs to the court system are relatively small and doable,” he said. “The benefits to Juneau, southeast Alaska and the court system as a whole will be substantial.”

This change requires legislative approval under HB 298. The bill has a hearing in the House Community and Regional Affairs committee Thursday morning.

The bill wants to increase the statewide total of superior court judges by one to 43, enabling Juneau to use that extra position.

Stowers has devoted his previous two speeches on the fiscal constraints placed on the court system, assuring lawmakers the job is getting done.

He had a closing message for a Legislature that has been unable to pass a fiscal plan these last three years:

“I believe that you have the capacity to think anew about the fiscal crisis and scenario in Alaska: its government, its businesses, its institutions, its people. Some cynically say that nothing will happen this session because it’s an election year. I say not true.

“Because it’s an election year and because Alaskans are looking and longing for true and effective leadership, you can choose to act this session collectively and devise solutions that serve all Alaskans. The operative idea is that notwithstanding your differences, you must act.

“Do. Or do not There is no try.”

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