Alaska may soon have a new federal judge. There are only three full-time U.S. District Court judge positions in Alaska, and one of them has been vacant for nearly a year and a half.
Last week, Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan sent a list of recommended nominees to President Trump, who has the power to appoint federal judges, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The Senators’ representatives did not publish the list of nominees, and declined to tell Alaska Public Media whom they nominated, how many names they sent to the White House, or whether those names came from the original applicant pool of 20 Alaska lawyers and judges.
If this level of secrecy sounds unfamiliar, that could be because there are very few rules governing the selection of federal judges.
In contrast, Alaska State Court judges are chosen after a merit-based review process, as required by the Alaska Constitution. Over the past half century, that process has become very thorough and public.
The nominations are just suggestions; President Trump is not compelled to choose from that list. It’s unclear when Trump will make his choice.