Once in a while there comes an issue where there is no other legitimate side. Where there is only one right and the other is simply wrong. Voting yes to retain Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court is one of them.
I first met Dana Fabe when a student in a class on administrative law, who worked for the court system, was curious about how judges got evaluated. This was a very smart student who had been raised in a fundamentalist family. He'd made some accommodations with the world - while he personally felt homosexuality was a sin, as a government employee, he felt he did not have the right to treat gays differently from anyone else.
So as a class project he dove deep into this issue. What he discovered, and presented to class, was the complex and thorough system by which judges are evaluated.
The Judicial Council is directed by law to evaluate the performance of judges due to appear on the ballot. The Council collects evaluations from attorneys, peace and probation officers, jurors, social workers, public hearings, and information from many other sources. The Council then recommends to the public whether each judge should be retained. The recommendations, as well as information about the evaluation of each judge, are sent to each voter in the Official Election Pamphlet. [from Alaska Judicial Council]The other students got into this project and Dana Fabe, who then I think was a court administrator or perhaps a superior court judge, was invited to class. For a couple of hours she talked and answered students' questions. There are times when you just know - this person is both highly competent and public spirited. This was a long time ago and I don't remember the details of what she said. Only that I was left with complete confidence in her abilities.
What I learned is that Alaska has one of the best systems for selecting judges - a system that favors merit while keeping the political aspects of evaluation judges to a minimum. And we have a comparatively outstanding set of judges in the state.
Later, when I got a small grant to set up a group of five outstanding women administrators to create a process to pass on their wisdom to public administration students, Dana Fabe was one of the five. Everyone I asked brought up her name.
Then they set up a class for students where we had panel discussions each week made up of different women administrators talking on different subjects. There were even a few men that were on some of the panels. So this was a second chance to work with Dana Fabe and see how remarkable she was.
To get on the Supreme Court, you submit your name and the paperwork. Then all the surveys go out to the various groups listed above. And those that get back scores above a set level are then sent on to the Governor who then selects one who then must be confirmed by the legislature. That was how Dana Fabe got selected.
Then every election that includes retention of judges, all the surveying goes on again and the Judicial Council makes a recommendation. It's in your voter pamphlet for each candidate.
So, why am I writing all this? If Judge Fabe is so good, what's the big deal?
Well, this year, a last minute campaign has been made to get people to vote no for Judge Fabe's retention. Alex Brynner, a retired Supreme Court judge began an Anchorage Daily News editorial on the campaign this way: