Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s pick for attorney general received support from colleagues and courtroom opponents Monday, along with pushback from those who believe his religious-liberty cases would preclude him from “upholding basic human rights.”

The state House Judiciary Committee held a two-hour confirmation hearing on Kevin Clarkson’s nomination Monday afternoon. Clarkson delivered an overview of a 35-year career with two law firms then sat back and let others do the talking, either on his behalf or against his selection.

Clarkson received support from those who worked with him in two Anchorage law offices, plus former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and former attorney general Michael Geraghty.

They praised him for his professionalism and commitment to the rule of law.

Critics, however, say Clarkson’s religious-liberty clients like the Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage should disqualify him.

“Throughout his legal career, Mr. Clarkson has elevated religious freedom rights above other basic human rights and needs, like creating a family with the person you love or controlling one’s own body free of discrimination,” said Alyson Currey of Planned Parenthood. “Mr. Clarkson’s track record of opposing reproductive rights and equal protections for LGBTQ individuals demonstrate that he is unfit for this position and cannot be trusted to uphold the protections for basic human rights or uphold the state constitution.”

Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, however, questioned whether a person nominated for attorney general should be penalized for the people they’ve represented.

“Do you think with respect to either reproductive rights or LGBTQ rights, there is no place for anybody to represent the other side?” she asked.

“I am always going to be fighting for access to health care for all people,” Currey countered. “Access to education, employment, housing, public accommodations no matter who a person is, or who they love.”

LeDoux wasn’t finished.

“Couldn’t the same argument be used in another administration, in another Legislature, to preclude somebody who totally agreed with you on those issues?” she asked. “I’m just saying, don’t you think it’s maybe kind of a dangerous precedent to say we shouldn’t confirm a lawyer who doesn’t agree with us?”

Former colleagues and courtroom opponents uniformly supported Clarkson’s nomination. One of those was former Anchorage attorney Jeff Feldman.

Feldman, now a Seattle attorney who also teaches at the University of Washington, says he squared off in the courtroom against Clarkson on many issues including reproductive freedom, ballot initiatives, and reapportionment.

“I suspect I may be Mr. Clarkson’s most frequent adversary on these kinds of cases,” Feldman said. “While he and I disagree on all of these issues, I’ve always found him to be a very talented and careful lawyer. I found him to be committed to the rule of law, diligent and dedicated as a professional.

“To my knowledge, he always treats lawyers, litigants and judges with courtesy and respect. I understand why some individuals may have concerns about his appointment. Some of those individuals, in fact, are my former clients. But I believe it’s a mistake to judge lawyers by clients they represent or the positions they argued on client’s behalf.”

Feldman said three criteria should drive the consideration: whether the nominee will zealously represent the interest of the people of Alaska; has the requisite intelligence, professional judgment and ethical compass to hold the position; and will provide sounds guidance and direction for the 200-plus lawyers in the Department of Law.

Next up for Clarkson will be a confirmation vote, once the House and Senate hold a joint hearing. No date has been set for that meeting.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.

RELATED STORIES: