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Parnell appoints Anchorage attorney to Superior Court bench

Jerzy Shedlock

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed an attorney currently in private practice to the Superior Court in Anchorage.

Michael Corey will replace Judge Sen Tan, who is retiring.

Corey, a member of the Anchorage firm Jermain Dunnagan and Owens, has practiced law in Alaska for 28 years. He is a member of the national, state and local bar associations, as well as a past member of the Alaska Bar Ethics Committee, according to the governor’s office.

Corey’s application says 99 percent of his legal practice occurred in civil court. He wrote that his experience includes providing counsel to “entities ranging from small rural municipalities all over Alaska to multinational corporations.”

Parnell said Corey is active in the community as an assistant coach for the Service High School hockey team as well.

Judge Tan was appointed in 1996 by then-Gov. Tony Knowles. Alaskans voted three times to keep him on the bench, including in 2000 and 2012 when he was targeted by social conservatives.

In 2003, Tan struck down for the second time a 1997 law that said girls had to get their parents' consent before an abortion. In 1999, he threw out a law passed the year before aimed at ending state funding for abortions sought by low-income women.

Both times Tan was targeted, the state-funded Alaska Judicial Council stood behind him and fought back with advertisements in several Southcentral newspapers.

Established in the state constitution, the Alaska Judicial Council is a seven-member nonpartisan panel that screens and nominates candidates for judgeships, evaluates the performance of judges and studies the judicial system.

The council’s vote to nominate Corey was unanimous, said executive director Susanne DiPietro. Of the six attorneys who applied to fill the vacancy, the council nominated three others in addition to Corey, she said.

DiPietro said the judicial council simply provides the vote tally sheet to the governor with no commentary on why it chose the nominees. She declined to comment on why the council believed Corey was more qualified than other applicants.

Gov. Parnell personally interviewed all of the nominees, said spokeswoman Sharon Leighow. She said Parnell did not ask about Corey’s position on abortion funding or parental consent to abortions.

When the governor signed Senate Bill 49 -- which defines “medically necessary” abortions -- into law, he declared in a post on his campaign Facebook page that he is a “pro-life governor and will continue to work toward those ends.”

Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock agreed to put the law on hold one day before it was set to take effect until a trial set for February 2015. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the law, arguing that both measures violate the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions.