In unprecedented move, voters ousted Judge Corey. What happens now?
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey has become the first person dismissed from the bench by Alaska voters despite a recommendation from the Alaska Judicial Council that he be retained.
Corey was the initial target of a rare grassroots recall movement after he approved a "no-jail time" plea agreement for Justin Schneider.
Unofficial election results show 53 percent of voters chose not to retain Corey, who lost his judgeship by 9,269 votes.
For those who led the charge against him, removing Judge Corey from the bench is, in a way, symbolic.
They wanted to send a message, according to Elizabeth Williams, organizer of the campaign called No More Free Passes.
"What it tells me is that Alaskans have had enough. They're sick and tired of excuses and free passes for violence, and they're wanting to make a stand," she said as preliminary numbers rolled in.
Judge Corey's supporters see him as the casualty of a "loophole" in Alaska State Law, and worry the outcome of his retention battle could have a ripple effect across Alaska's entire judicial system.
"If judges have to be concerned that what the Legislature does affects what they do in the courtroom, and affects their ability to do their jobs and maintain impartiality, then it affects how judges do business," said longtime Alaska defense attorney Rex Butler. "And that's a problem."
The minimally funded, highly emotional campaigns against and for Corey primarily used social media to distribute their messaging.
The No More Free Passes campaign also held a rally where attendees could register to vote.
In the final days before the election, Corey addressed voters directly in a short video posted to Facebook. In the video, which is no longer available, he said he was limited in what he could say about the Schneider case, and that victims are always at the forefront of his mind.
"We judges must follow the law, even when that produces a result that we strongly dislike," he said.
Schneider strangled an Alaska Native woman unconscious and masturbated on her, but state law doesn't currently consider that a sex crime. The count Schneider faced for the latter act, offensive contact with fluids, is more routinely charged against defendants who throw urine at or spit on police or correctional officers.
It's a reality some legal experts say handicapped prosecutors, and tied Corey's hands. It's also something Williams' campaign wants to change.
In a campaign Facebook post Wednesday, Williams thanked voters for making Alaska history. She then said "We will no longer be discussing Mr. Corey [...] From here on out, we will be focused on legislative advocacy."
The group has a strategy event set for Saturday, Nov. 17.
A Facebook page advocating for Corey's retention was removed after the polls closed Tuesday.
Corey's wife, Dayna, who supported him publicly, did not return a request for comment on Wednesday.
As for Corey, his term in office ends 90 days after the election, and he is barred from applying to be a judge in Alaska for four years.
According to Susanne DiPietro, executive director of the Alaska Judicial Council, the council will now begin the lengthy and public process of recommending only the most qualified applicants to replace him.
A list of applicants will be made public, and Alaskans will have an opportunity to weigh in during a public hearing in Anchorage.
The applicants are also subject to extensive background checks, must supply several references, and will participate in a face-to-face interview with the council.
The council must then nominate at least two candidates, with governor-elect Mike Dunleavy making the final call. He'll be constitutionally required to appoint one of the council's nominees to fill Corey's vacant seat on the bench.
Dipietro said the entire process is based on merit, not politics, and could take six to eight months.
Voters retained the other 14 judges on the ballot.
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