President Donald Trump’s pick for a U.S. District Court judgeship in Alaska will appear in front of the U.S. Senate’s judiciary committee on Wednesday, a key final step before a confirmation vote by the entire Senate.
Josh Kindred, a former attorney for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, currently works for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Anchorage and was picked by the president in October to replace U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline.
The American Bar Association on Tuesday issued a letter saying Kindred is qualified for the job, but as first reported by Alaska Public Media, a poll commissioned by the Alaska Bar Association on behalf of Alaska’s two U.S. Senators rated Kindred 16th of 20 applicants when it comes to being “extremely qualified” or “well qualified” for the job.
Kindred was picked by the president after a previous choice, Jonathan Katchen, withdrew his name last year. Presidential selections are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Elaine Andrews, a semi-retired state judge and chair of the bar association’s committee on fair and impartial courts, said Alaskans shouldn’t be too quick to judge Kindred on the state poll.
“You can’t really tell what this bar poll means," she said.
Since 2001, the association has surveyed the state’s attorneys to help Alaska’s U.S. Senators in the event of a federal vacancy here. Traditionally, the U.S. Senate doesn’t vote on a judge without the approval of home-state senators. The bar association’s polls are voluntary, and the senators determine what information gets released. In this case, the senators haven’t allowed the bar association to report the number of people who rated each candidate. In addition, the poll is much less stringent than the ones conducted for state judges.
The poll had asked bar association members to rate candidates as “extremely qualified," “well qualified,” “qualified,” “unqualified,” or “not enough information.” Only figures for “extremely qualified” and “well qualified” were released.
That’s a particular issue for Kindred, who was one of the youngest candidates on the list. In an interview with Alaska Public Media, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the president prefers younger candidates for judgeships.
Kindred came to Alaska in fifth grade, graduated from Bartlett High School in 1996, then attended the University of Alaska Anchorage. He was working the night shift at an Anchorage hotel when he decided to pursue a legal career and tested well enough to win a scholarship to Willamette University College of Law in Oregon.
He returned to Alaska, eventually becoming a prosecutor for the state of Alaska. Clint Campion was one of his supervisors.
“I was struck then, and it’s still true, that he treats people fairly,” said Campion, who is now in private practice. “I think he has real empathy and understanding of people’s situations.”
After working as a prosecutor, Kindred became an attorney for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. Campion speculated that Kindred’s youth, combined with his position at AOGA, meant he didn’t interact with many of the state’s lawyers, causing few to have the personal knowledge needed to rank him highly.
Kara Moriarty, executive director of AOGA, said she believes Kindred has the “demeanor that would make him an excellent judge.”
“In my time here with him at AOGA, I found him to be incredibly thorough and detail-orientated and incredibly fair,” she said.
Following his time at the association, he became the head attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Alaska, a position he still holds. Joe Balash was an assistant secretary for the department until September.
Asked whether Kindred would make a good judge, Balash said, “Yes. I can tell you that Josh never let his personal views or the desires of his bosses get in the way of his advice in terms of interpreting the law.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet beginning at 6 a.m. Alaska time. Proceedings will be streamed online.