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Dunleavy relents, will pick new judge from council nominees

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has relented and said Wednesday he now will fill a Palmer Superior Court seat with one of two remaining candidates sent to him by the Alaska Judicial Council.

His announcement followed a meeting Tuesday with Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger, who serves on the council.

Bolger has said that framers of Alaska’s Constitution intended for a governor to appoint for judgeships candidates nominated by the council. He also defended the council’s process for vetting and nominating candidates.

Dunleavy last week filled one Palmer Superior Court seat but refused to fill a second. "I will not be selecting a second candidate from this truncated list," he wrote in a letter to council members. The council sent Dunleavy three candidates for the two seats.

Dunleavy said he believed there were qualified applicants who "inexplicably" were not nominated and sought the council's reasoning "to determine whether additional qualified candidates could be nominated by the Council for this position."

The council's website shows there were 13 applicants for the two seats. Two withdrew, and a third was appointed to another judgeship.

The constitution calls for a governor to fill a superior court vacancy by appointing one of two or more persons nominated by the council. State law calls for a governor to fill such a vacancy or appoint a successor for an impending vacancy within 45 days after receiving nominations from the council. That period has passed.

In a statement Wednesday, Dunleavy said his meeting with Bolger provided "important clarification" on the nominations process that Dunleavy was seeking when he delayed the second appointment.

“As a result, I intend to interview the two Palmer Superior Court nominees and will soon fill this vacancy from the council’s nominees,” he said.

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