Nome judge faces misconduct allegations

Picture and brief résumé of Nome Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley. Image, text: Alaska Department of Law.
Picture and brief résumé of Nome Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley. Image, text: Alaska Department of Law.

Nome Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley will go before a judicial oversight committee on Thursday for a disciplinary hearing, facing multiple charges of professional misconduct.

In May, the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct cited Dooley for six alleged violations.

“We issued a complaint, which is a list of formal charges of violations of the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct by statements the judge made in various court proceedings,” said Marla Greenstein, executive director of the commission.

In the charging document, the commission highlighted fivestatements Dooley made in court that showed “insensitivity to the victims and witnesses.” The document also identified an incident where Dooley allegedly bargained with a defendant, essentially exchanging a certain sentence for a “no contest” plea.

All six incidents occurred between May of 2013 — when Dooley first assumed his position in Nome after appointment by former Gov. Sean Parnell — and September of last year. They came to light after the commission received several anonymous complaints about the judge.

Dooley responded to the allegations in June when his attorney, William Satterberg, Jr., submitted an answer to the commission’s complaint. In the response, Dooley acknowledged having made the statements in question, but denied violating any standards of conduct. He also requested the hearing take place in Nome.

While Dooley’s request was considered, Greenstein said state budget constraints made a Nome hearing unrealistic.

Instead, the disciplinary hearing will take place at the Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage, where the commission — made up of three judges, three lawyers, and three members of the public — will review court audio and hear testimony from Dooley.

“The commission chair will basically preside, and then the other commission members will typically sit in the jury box and have the ability to ask questions of witnesses,” said Greenstein. “Then they will deliberate.”

That deliberation will determine whether or not Dooley’s statements and behavior violated the judicial code of conduct. If the charges are found to be unsupported, Greenstein said the complaint will be dismissed.

But if the charges are found to be true — in total or in part — the commission can recommend that Dooley be publicly censured, suspended, or removed from office. Greenstein said permanent removal is very rare.

If any sanctions are recommended, though, they’ll go before the Alaska Supreme Court, which is responsible for enforcing any penalties.

Dooley’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. Although the hearing is taking place in Anchorage, the commission has announced there will also be an audio broadcast available at the Nome Courthouse.