Confirmation Hearing Held for Two Alaskan Judges

Wednesday, there was a confirmation hearing for two Alaska women who have been appointed to federal judgeships by President Obama.  The hearing went well but the appointments could still get snagged on national politics. Judge Sharon Gleason would become a federal District Court judge and Justice Morgan Christen would join the Ninth Circuit Appeals court – only the third Alaskan even to sit on it.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, asked Justice Christen about her philosophy.  President Obama once said judges should have empathy, but Hatch does not think it should be part of decisions – and Christen said she doesn’t either.

“We’re not allowed to tilt the scales depending on how we feel about a case.  But I believe there are  life-lessons that we’ve all learned that are very important that judges retain and take with them to the
bench.  By that I mean that I think it’s important we’re always mindful that there are real people on receiving end of orders, and very often people’s lives on hold, or their businesses on hold waiting for our decisions.  That’s why it matters very much that our work is timely for example,” Christen said.

The committee’s top Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, threw a tough line of questioning at Judge Gleason, mostly centered around a 1985 report written about sex discrimination in Alaska.  Gleason said in that report she was often compiling the ideas of others.

Republican Lisa Murkowski spoke glowingly about both appointees to her Senate colleagues Wednesday.

“Today’s (Wednesday’s) hearing is especially historic because if confirmed Morgan Christen and Gleason will be the first two Alaskan women to serve on the federal bench.  As a member of the Alaskan bar and as a Senior senator from Alaska, let me say the President could not have nominated two more qualified individuals to fill these seats,” Murkowski said.

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