What Minnery really means is that Tan's decision was at odds with Minnery's values. Minnery, you will recall, is the guy from the conservative Alaska Family Council who blasted out emails last spring telling people to register to vote before the deadline, three weeks before the election, passed. Then, after it passed, he emailed them again saying they could just show up and register on election day to vote. He had to know, given his earlier email, that you couldn't register and vote on the day of the election. And he had to know it would cause turmoil at the polls if enough unregistered voters showed up. And it did, along with the shortage of ballots.
The rule of law doesn't seem to matter to Minnery. His guide appears to be his interpretation of the Bible.
It's important to know that Alaska has some of the best judges in the country because of how we pick them. The Judicial Council surveys all sorts of professionals and jurors - people who see the judge in action from different perspectives - and uses this information to rate judges. Here's the list of links for Judge Tan's ratings:
- Voter Pamphlet Page (Council summary of the judge’s performance)
- Attorney Survey Ratings (All surveys use a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating)
- Peace and Probation Officer Survey Ratings
- Social Worker and Guardian ad Litem Survey Ratings
- Juror Survey Ratings - (No juror surveys were returned for the jury trials that Judge Tan conducted in this two-year period)
- Court Employee Survey Ratings
- Survey Ratings from Previous Evaluations
- Alaska Judicial Observers Ratings (Community-based volunteer court observers)
- Peremptory Challenge Rate (How often a party requested assignment of a new judge)
- Recusal Rate (How often a judge disqualified himself or herself due to a conflict of interest)
- Appellate Affirmance Rate (How often a trial judge was affirmed or reversed on appeal)
- Salary Warrant Withholdings (How often a judge’s pay was withheld for unfinished work)
- Judge Questionnaire (Judge’s response to a Judicial Council questionnaire)
- Survey Ratings for all Judges on the 2012 Ballot
Judge Tan is, by all accounts, a first rate judge. He doesn't get to the top scores of all judges, but he's up there. He's particularly respected for how he handles cases involving abused children and gets almost perfect scores from Social Workers and Guardians Ad Litem. He also gets high ratings from Court employees and the Alaska Bar Association members. His lowest average scores come from Law Enforcement members where he averaged 4.1 out of 5, which is a very strong score.
His average annual rate for peremptory challenges was 11. The average for all Superior Court judges was 33. He was the fifth lowest out of 14.
Minnery targets Tan because of two abortion decisions made over ten year ago. Decisions that, as I've said, were upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court. Judge Tan wasn't wrong. He didn't substitute his personal values for the law. If he had, his decisions would have been overturned by the Supreme Court. It's Minnery who is substituting his values for the law.
Minnery has the right to his opinion and to publish his opinion. The rest of us have the same right and responsibility to correct his errors and urge voters to support Judge Tan's retention.
I would note that Judge Tan has a pretty unique background. A 2004 article in the Malaysian newspaper, The Star tells us he was born in Malaysia and got his BA (with honors) from the University of Kent at Canterbury and his law degree (JD) at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.
We also learn from The Star that his cousin - his father's brother's son - is the world renowned cellist Yoyo Ma.
And he likes to ride his motorcycle.
The article also talks about his early interest in the law:
“My interest in law came from the legacy of books my father left behind. Some of the books discussed the principles of the Rule of Law. I was very interested in law as an organising principle for a fair, just and compassionate society. Thus, I settled on reading law in Britain,” said Tan, whose father passed away when he was 10 years old."So, if you haven't voted yet, remember to send Jim Minnery a message and approve the retention of Judge Sen Tan.
[UPDATE Nov. 7, 1:00am: Judge Tan is winning retention 53% yes to 46% with 93% of precincts reporting. Minnery's campaign clearly had an impact - Tan had the lowest percentage for retention of all the judges by a lot - but he didn't defeat Tan. However, I'm sure he thinks he's sent all judges a message that if they make unpopular decisions, they'll be targets.]