Chief Justice Stowers says courts will examine sex harassment policies

Alaska Chief Justice Craig Stowers delivers the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday. Behind him are Senate President Pete Kelly, left, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska Court System is reviewing its policies to prevent sexual harassment. That’s according to Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers. He spoke to the Legislature Wednesday in the annual State of the Judiciary address.

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“You know, we learn some stuff in kindergarten usually, and this is one of those things,” Stowers said of not harassing others. “And it still is hard to believe in this day and age that you would see the kind of instances of sexual harassment in the workplace or anywhere. There’s no place for it in public life, and you know that and I know that.”

Stowers said he’s forming a working group to examine the harassment policies. He said he isn’t aware of any cases of harassment by judges or court employees.

Stowers also talked about other changes to the court system, including changes to rural courts.

They include adjusting court hours and staffing to match smaller case loads. And the system plans to hire more non-law-trained deputy magistrate judges in rural areas. Stowers said they will handle uncomplicated judicial work. The changes will save $400,000.

Stowers quoted the Star Wars character Yoda in encouraging the Legislature to address the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

“The operative idea is that, notwithstanding your differences, you must act,” Stowers said. “‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’”

Stowers also requested that the Legislature convert a district court judge position in Juneau to a Superior Court judge position to help handle the workload.

It was Stowers’ last address of a three-year term. The court will vote for a new chief justice before Stowers’ term ends on June 30. He will remain on the court.