Point-Counterpoint: Jim Minnery says Judge Tan must go

The authors of Alaska's state constitution wisely decided that voters should have the power to approve or reject judges based on their record. Alaska Superior Court Judge Sen Tan is a liberal activist judge who deserves a NO vote. He has handed down rulings with no sound basis in the law or the constitution -- imposing his own liberal views to strike down laws that were properly passed by representatives that we elected.

Many of those supporting Judge Tan, including the Alaska Judicial Council, claim that Alaska judges and justices should always be retained or approved by the people simply because of their legal/technical competence or because they haven't had any ethical, legal or moral lapses while on the court. In their view, the people of Alaska shouldn't be concerned about the actual legal rulings that are made or the judicial philosophies of those up for retention. This is wrong thinking and is not what the framers of our Constitution intended.

Alaskans have every right and indeed a responsibility to cast a Yes or No vote on judges and justices on the ballot for any reason they determine, just as they do for candidates running for governor, state senator or representative or for the local Assembly.

Judges are public servants and willingly place themselves in a position that allows citizens to periodically scrutinize their record and cast a vote accordingly.

Justices and judges are in a "political" environment whether they admit it or not. They make decisions about the allocation of values in society and the political nature of the process is clear when some judges assert that the Eighth Amendment prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment" should preclude the death penalty, while other judges agree with the Founding Fathers, who wrote and ratified the amendment, that it does not.

Some judges assert that killing a viable, late-term, unborn baby through abortion is a crime, while others call it a "woman's right to choose." Some judges assert that "normalizing so-called gay marriage" is a mere interpretation of the civil rights provisions of our state constitution, while others call it "legislating from the bench."

We only need to look to the United State Supreme Court to see that judges are often clearly divided on how to interpret laws. Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are typically thought of as having a "strict constructionist" or "originalist" view of law, while Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan fall into the "judicial activist" legal mind-set, believing that the Constitution is a "living, breathing document" that needs to be continually revisited as times change.


There can be no doubt that a difference exists in how judges rule from the bench. Alaskans have the right to give a thumbs up or down to any particular judge up for retention based on these differences.

While gay marriage, abortion, school choice, government-run health care and other hot-button issues remain mostly partisan matters, Alaska Family Action believes judicial activism should concern everyone.

Judge Sen Tan, with his rulings on public funding for abortion and parental consent, has clearly indicated that he is aligned more with the "judicial activist" mind-set. Alaskans who believe this kind of judicial philosophy is an abuse of power and that judges should not legislate from the bench should vote no on Judge Tan on Nov. 6 and send a clear message to the judiciary that judges will be held accountable when they cross this line.

Jim Minnery is president of the Alaska Family Council.