Judge Nathaniel Peters Brings Love Of The Delta To The Bench

Jul 27, 2017

Nathaniel Peters was sworn in as Bethel's newest Superior Court Judge on June 9, 2017. His mother, Jane Frances Peters, assisted him in putting his robe on at the ceremony.
Credit Katie Basile/KYUK

Nathaniel Peters used to paint houses in Illinois, and tend bar in Ireland. These days, he's Bethel's newest Superior Court judge.

Peters was sworn in as a Superior Court judge in June, after serving as Bethel’s District Court Judge for several years. He handles a wide range of cases, both criminal and civil. Peters has lived in Bethel for several years said that the Delta was the only community that he had a real interest in serving.

“Some people don’t come out here to make a home,” said Peters, “but we’ve made it our home.” The only judgeship he applied for was the position in Bethel.

Peters originally moved to Bethel over ten years ago when he joined the court’s public defender's office. Representing his clients could be challenging and rife with logistical difficulties, particularly when the weather turned. Villages would lose phone service for long periods of time and Peters sometimes resorted to contacting witnesses by letter.

Peters met his wife here, and they now have three children. The family can often be seen out and about at high school basketball games or the K300. 

The family of Bethel's newest Superior Court Judge, Nathaniel Peters, witnessed his swearing-in ceremony on June 9, 2017 at the Bethel courthouse. From Left: Ned, Rory, Sally and Addy Peters.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Being a judge in a small town can be delicate. Peters said it’s not uncommon for him to run into defendants on the street or in the grocery store after sentencing them in his courtroom.

“You can say, ‘Hi, how are things going?’ Ask how a vacation was, that sort of thing,” he said. “I think that if you treat people like a human and a person, they’re going to treat you with equal respect.”

Peters hopes to bring that sense of awareness to the sentencing process. As a Superior Court Judge, he said he plans to evaluate each case individually and assess each sentence’s impact on the community.

This story is part of a KYUK series that profiles new leadership in the Delta's criminal justice system. Click here to read our previous profiles of Police Chief Burke Waldron and District Attorney Stephen Wallace.