By Adam Pinkser
Channel 2 News
10:31 PM AKDT, November 2, 2012
A religious-based public policy group is urging voters not to retain an Anchorage Superior Court judge because of his rulings on the controversial Parental Notification Law.
Former governor Tony Knowles appointed Sen Tan to the bench on December 4th, 1996.
In his 2012 evaluation, the non-partisan Alaska Judicial Review Council said Tan was given a perfect rating by social workers and guardian ad-litems for impartiality and integrity.
But not everyone agrees with those ratings.
Jim Minnery, head of Alaska Family Action, launched a mobile campaign to try to convince voters not to retain Judge Tan in the General Election.
He says it’s nothing personal; just that he thinks Judge Tan was wrong to twice strike down a 1997 law passed by the legislature. The law requires minors seek parental notification before obtaining an abortion.
"He basically said I'm bigger than all of the people in the State of Alaska, the legislature and the U.S. Supreme Court combined,” said Minnery.
Larry Cohn, Director of the non-partisan watchdog group the Alaska Judicial Council disagrees.
The AJC reviews the record of every judge before issuing a recommendation on retention. AJC combs through thousands of surveys from police, attorneys and child advocates.
Cohn says the panel comprised of 3 attorneys and 3 members of the public voted unanimously to recommend Tan be retained.
"When people disagree with a decision that a judge makes, they of course can appeal, but the better remedy to vote judges out of office is to seek a change in the law," said Cohn.
That's exactly what happened in August 2010 when voters passed a similar law in a ballot initiative.
A majority of the language in the original version of the Parental Notification Law went into effect in December of 2010, and it has withstood legal scrutiny since.
Channel 2 News tried to contact Judge Tan for reaction but we were told he was traveling and was not available for comment.
But supporters say it's a judge's duty to follow the law, no matter how they feel personally and they hope voters will keep his respected record in mind.
“I have worked with him for entire time he's been on the Superior Court,” said Judge Peter Michalski, who retired earlier this year. “I’m proud to have been a colleague of his for years and seen his work.”
Minnery says he was appalled to see the Alaska Judicial Council, which was established in the state's constitution, take out an ad in Friday’s Anchorage Daily News supporting Tan.
"There's a lot of disagreement in how the Alaska Judicial Council is using public funds right now, to support and campaign on behalf of Judge Tan."
The two sides do agree on at least one issue: voters should be well informed. A decision on whether to retain or to remove a judge from the bench is an important one. Tan is among more than a dozen judges who appear on Tuesday’s ballot.
No matter the outcome on Tuesday, this issue may continue as Minnery says his group is contemplating a lawsuit against the judicial council for allegedly overstepping its bounds.
Contact Adam Pinsker
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