Former Bethel District Court Judge, Dennis Cummings, retired a year ago amid controversy of judicial misconduct. That position has never been filled and the court has relied on temporary fill-ins. The Alaska Judicial Council, the group tasked with the hiring process, is now seeking new applicants.
The council has attempted to fill the job over the past year, but hasn’t received enough qualified applicants to go forward. Now, the group is in another round of accepting applicants with a new deadline of May 10.
The job’s annual salary of $161,000 is considered not enough by some. The Alaska Court System is seeking to raise that figure through a cost of living adjustment but it will have to be approved by the Alaska Legislature. The council would like to see a raise for all rural judges in the state.
A district judge has limited jurisdiction compared to a superior court judge. They hear misdemeanor cases as well as preliminary hearings in felony cases. In Bethel, the district judge hears both criminal and civil proceedings.
After the application deadline, the judicial council will investigate the applications and seek public comment. The council must send at least two qualified applicants to the governor who then has 45 days to make the final decision.
The Alaska Judicial Council is a seven member citizen’s commission that includes three attorneys, three non-attorneys, and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.