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Parnell picks Anchorage judge Stowers for Supreme Court

Sean CockerhamMcClatchy-Tribune News Service

Gov. Sean Parnell has made his first appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court, an Anchorage Superior Court judge considered a conservative in the field of candidates from which Parnell could pick.

Parnell announced his choice of Judge Craig Stowers on Wednesday, citing his "character, legal experience, his strong work ethic, his intellect, and his record of service to Alaska's people."

Stowers was appointed to the Anchorage Superior Court by Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2004. He was previously a civil attorney and founding partner in the law firm Clapp, Peterson and Stowers, which specialized in defending professionals such as doctors and lawyers. He was among seven candidates nominated by the nonpartisan Alaska Judicial Council for Parnell to choose from, out of a record 25 who applied to fill the seat of the retired Justice Robert Eastaugh.

Stowers is president of the board of Anchorage-based Christian Health Associates, a nonprofit involved in medical care for low-income people and "pastoral and clinical counseling."

"I care deeply about people, families, Alaska and law. I have an abiding love of theology and strive to follow Micah 6:8," Stowers wrote in his application to the judicial council.

That Bible verse says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Stowers, 55, also wrote to the council that growing up in Yorktown, Va., "imbued me with a deep respect for American history and the principles upon which our country was founded."

"In college, I majored in biology, and parlayed my lifelong passion for nature and adventure into a career as a Park Ranger with the National Park Service. In 1977, I transferred to Mount McKinley National Park where I served as District Naturalist and District Ranger."

Stowers received his law degree in 1985 at the University of California Davis and clerked for Justice Warren Matthews of the Alaska Supreme Court and for U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Boochever in Juneau. He is not registered with any political party.

Parnell's choice has the approval of the Alaska Family Council, a Christian group that lobbied hard against then-Gov. Sarah Palin's choice of a former Planned Parenthood board member to the Alaska Supreme Court earlier this year.

"We're very pleased with that, (Stowers) was what we were hoping for," said Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council. "He seems to have been someone that's followed the more constructionist viewpoint of interpreting the Constitution, and we'd like to think his track record shows he's not going to legislate from the bench."

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara said he asked a few attorneys about Stowers after Parnell picked him on Wednesday afternoon. "Folks say he's likely moderate, thoughtful and, as a judge, would likely rely on precedent as he's required to -- not make up new rules," Gara said in an e-mail.

Gara said it's not clear what views Stowers holds on abortion and other hot-button issues. Clover Simon, head of the Alaska branch of Planned Parenthood, said she's not familiar with him.

Minnery of the anti-abortion Alaska Family Council said he doesn't know what views Stowers holds on the issue, but "my guess is that he is not going to create rights that aren't laid out in the Constitution as some of the other justices have."

A survey of Alaska attorneys for the 2008 judicial retention election resulted in Stowers receiving an overall 4.4 out of a possible 5. His rating among peace and probation officers was a 4.1.

Jurors gave him a 5.0, court employees a 4.2 and a survey of social workers, guardians ad litem and child advocates resulted in a 3.9.

The surveys specified a 3 as acceptable, 4 as good and 5 excellent.

Find Sean Cockerham online at or call him at 257-4344.

PDF: Stowers biographical statement
PDF: Stowers' 2008 retention evaluation from Alaska Judicial Council