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Judicial applicant guidelines established

A year of cooperative work between the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Alaska Judicial Council, and the Alaska Bar Association has resulted in a comprehensive set of ethical guidelines for applicants for judgeships in our state. Highlighting problem areas and offering cautionary notes, the Guidelines are designed to increase awareness of preferred conduct, by both the applicant and the applicant's supporters while the judicial application is pending.

The Guidelines not only address behavior directly by the applicant but also suggest guidance for attorneys supporting the applicant's efforts before the Judicial Council and the Governor.

Friends and colleagues wishing to support a judicial applicant should ensure that their efforts reflect dignity in form, tone, and content. There are certain forms of communication that are typically viewed as undignified. These communications may include form-letter mass mailings, phone calls to those without any pre-existing relationship to the caller or applicant, and mass e-mail communications.

Communications that attack the qualifications of other contenders, even if true, can often be viewed as undignified and the use of prominent clients or newsworthy cases to promote an applicant's candidacy is questionable. In short, the tone of all communications should reflect the tone of judicial decisions: Fact-based, without emotional content, and with substance.

Under a merit selection plan, like Alaska's, campaigns that appear political in nature are strongly discouraged. Applicants and their supporters should not run newspaper advertisements endorsing the applicant or send letters to organizations to urge their support.

Throughout the application process, quality communications clearly outweigh quantity. Large volumes of endorsement letters imply that the letters were solicited and that the applicant is relying more on personal relationships than qualifications for the position.

While the Guidelines do not create any new ethical requirements, they apply existing standards to sample situations that any judicial applicant may face.

The Guidelines address:

  • Truthfulness and accuracy
  • preserving independent decision-making
  • organizations that may not be contacted by an applicant
  • statements that may be made by applicants
  • maintaining the dignity of judicial office
  • permissible communications
  • applying standards to family members and to other supporters, and
  • contact with the judicial council and the governor.

In addition to the text there are supporting articles, legal provisions, and ethics opinions included in a lengthy appendix.

Copies of Alaska Judicial Applicant Guidelines are available through the Alaska Judicial Council, the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Alaska Bar Association. Please write or call to receive your copy.

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