Dermot Cole

The right-wing men of the cloth attacking the independent judiciary in Alaska claim their campaign against Supreme Court Justice Sue Carney has nothing to do with her “character or qualifications.”

That’s a revealing comment from the sermonizers of the Anchorage Baptist Temple and the Bible Baptist Church and True North Church in Fairbanks. 

The three men don’t understand this, but Carney deserves to remain on the court precisely because of her character and qualifications. 

She has earned high marks from those who have dealt with her on hundreds of cases during her four years on the Supreme Court for her legal ability, impartiality, integrity, temperament and diligence. The Alaska Judicial Council unanimously endorsed her retention on the statewide ballot.

She practiced law for 28 years in Alaska and she and her husband, Pete Braveman, have two grown children. She is a Catholic.

But three leaders of the fight against her say that as “shepherds of our flocks,”  they feel qualified to tell those who belong to other flocks, or no flock at all, to vote against Carney. 

“To begin with, this has nothing to do with the character or qualifications of Justice Carney. We do not know her personally and have no reason to believe she is lacking in either of these areas,” say pastors Ron Huffman, Mark Zweifel and Doug Duffett.

“We are opposing Justice Carney based on her actual rulings and her obvious judicial philosophy.”

The pastors want judges who agree with their politics. They have spent little time in the courtroom where they might get a more accurate picture of Carney’s service. 

At least eight former attorneys general in Alaska, both Republicans and Democrats who have spent much of their lives in courtrooms, say Carney has been a first-rate member of the judiciary.

One of the eight, Fairbanks lawyer Charlie Cole, says Carney is calm, reserved, impartial, respectful of those who appear before her and compassionate. 

“She is bright and broadly informed. She is thoughtful, analytical, and careful in basing her decisions on the relevant laws, cases, and legal principles. She is not result-oriented or intent on advancing a personal political agenda. She writes well when she authors opinions for the court. She is diligent in her judicial work,” Cole says.

Huffman, Zweifel and Duffett dressed up their political screed with quotes from Scripture, almost suggesting that the Lord and the apostles are with them in their anti-Carney campaign.

A much better analysis has been offered by 11 other men and women of the cloth, published in the Anchorage Daily News Monday: “The current campaign to deny retention to Alaska Supreme Court Justice Sue Carney is a blatant and manipulative attempt to impose the narrow view of the few, at the expense of the solid foundation of the law and the fairness and impartiality of the constitution.”

“The first and most sacred duty of a Supreme Court justice is to rule based upon the facts of the law and the constitution of this great state of Alaska, and not to be swayed by political pressures and campaigns which will come and go,” the 11 pastors from various churches wrote.

As right-wing men of the cloth, Huffman, Zweifel and Duffett, should hold themselves to high standards.  Telling the truth is all important, as they would be the first to say.

The trio confess to be among the leaders of Alaskans for Judicial Reform. Their group claims that part of Carney’s “extreme record,” is “stealing your PFD.” 

I believe there is a commandment against stealing. 

And another one about bearing false witness against your neighbor.

Carney is not guilty of “stealing your PFD.”  

And it is a lie, whether told by a preacher or a pundit, to portray a reasoned and thoughtful decision—written by another judge—and approved unanimously by the Supreme Court, as Carney  “stealing your PFD.” 

The political deception of “Alaskans for Judicial Reform” is on clear display with its bogus PFD claim and its incendiary language.

The supremely confident men of the conservative cloth should use their influence to correct the false claim made by their group in its zeal to end Carney’s career.

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