Alaska 2012 Judicial Retention Election: Should Third District Superior Court Judge Sen Tan Be Retained?

from www.alaskapride.blogspot.com

Now that the Alaska Primary Election is in the record books, attention is turning to the general election to be held on November 6th, 2012. Getting the most scrutiny are the legislative candidates, and Republicans are particularly eager to put an end to the unwieldy and ineffective Senate Bi-Partisan Working Group.

But there’s another group of candidates worthy of our attention. There are 26 judges up for retention elections this year. Although these judges were originally appointed, they are required to stand for retention on a recurring basis. To assist voters, the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC) publishes ratings of all the judges up for retention; the ratings for the 2012 election are accessible through this portal. The Alaska Judicial Council recommends that Alaskans vote Yes to retain all judges in 2012, which simply means they can find nothing in their character or performance impinging upon their professional worthiness.

But there is one judge with whom I have an issue, enough to cause me to vote NO on him. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Sen K. Tan is up for retention. His summary indicates high ratings from attorneys, peace officers, court employees, and social workers alike. Judge Tan also receives fewer preemptory challenges than his peers, but has a lower affirmance rate than his peers. Only those voters who live within the boundaries of the Third Judicial District will see Judge Tan’s name on their ballots. A simplified map of district boundaries is provided below; a list of court locations within each district is available HERE:

The issue with Judge Tan is that he made two judicial decisions in the past that I consider detrimental to the public interest. In one case, he weakened parental control over their teenagers, and in another case, he disallowed efforts by the state to end public financing of elective abortions. Because of this, pro-life groups sought to defeat Judge Tan in the 2006 judicial retention election because he authored the lower court ruling that struck down the 1997 parental consent law, and because he authored another ruling that declared as “unconstitutional” the Alaska Legislature’s decision to end government-funded abortions. More details, with applicable links, are provided in the following paragraphs (after the jump).

In 1998, Judge Tan struck down Alaska’s parental consent law on abortion without a trial, ruling that the Alaska Parental Consent Act and Judicial Authorization Act was unconstitutional. However, it was a summary judgment reached after Judge Tan read briefs filed by both sides without the benefit of a trial to flesh out those arguments. The failure to allow a trial triggered an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court, which did not overrule Judge Tan on the decision, but on the failure to allow a trial. Consequently, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed that decision and returned the case to Judge Tan, ordering that the state of Alaska be allowed to present evidence in a trial.

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