February 1, 2023

The Alaska Judicial Council held a hearing Monday to allow members of the public to comment on the selection of a replacement for Judge Jennifer K. Wells, who is retiring from Kenai Superior Court.

The public hearing came immediately before a series of interviews with the nine remaining candidates for the post, 11 of whom had applied as of October.

A public vote by the Judiciary Council will be held Tuesday at 4 p.m. to determine which candidates will be nominated for the position. Governor Mike Dunleavy has 45 days to select one of the candidates for the role.

The contestants are, in order of their scheduled interviews, Curtis Patteson, Lacey Jane Brewster, Amanda Browning, Nicholas Torres, Katherine Ann Elsner, Kelly J. Lawson, Elizabeth Leduc, William Montgomery, Gustaf Olson. The interviews, which began around 1:30 p.m. following the public hearing, are expected to last until Tuesday.

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree, who presided over the process, explained that each candidate has the option of a public or private interview; only Patteson chose to allow the public to participate.

The public hearing is important, Winfree said, to give the public a chance to have their say in the selection of the new judge. Every person who testified on behalf of a candidate had recorded their support.

Of 26 who testified, 24 threw their support behind Brewster. Her testimony depended on her assisting grand juries in investigating judges — and was compiled by activists David Haeg and Ray Southwell of the Alaska Grand Jurors Association, who had emailed and posted on social media to seek testimony for the to make a candidate.

One speaker, Loren Hollers, said he was there because of Haeg.

“I attribute it all to David,” he said.

“Most of these people here don’t know her — probably don’t know anything about her,” he said of Brewster.

Support for Lawson was voiced by Linda Kennedy, who described herself as a “professional real estate investor” and said she had had positive experiences with Lawson during eviction-related court cases.

Christine Hutchison spoke in favor of Browning, who she said has a strong sense of “biblical geo-Christian values” that are important to her.

“It is very important to me that these values ​​are taken into account in every judgment a judge makes,” she said. “That’s what I look for in every candidate for political office.”

For more information about the Alaska Judicial Council and the process for filling the Kenai Superior Court seat, visit ajc.state.ak.us.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at [email protected]

Ray Southwell speaks during the public hearing being held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska.  (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

Ray Southwell speaks during the public hearing being held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

David Haeg speaks during the public hearing being held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska.  (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

David Haeg speaks during the public hearing being held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree will preside over the public hearing to be held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska.  (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

Chief Justice Daniel E. Winfree will preside over the public hearing to be held in the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

Kritie Babcock, a member of the Alaska Judicial Council, speaks during the public hearing being held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska.  (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)

Kritie Babcock, a member of the Alaska Judicial Council, speaks during the public hearing being held as part of the selection process for a new Kenai Superior Court judge Monday, January 23, 2023, at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Clarion Peninsula)


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