Juneau defender Meachum dies

Noted Juneau attorney Robert Meachum has passed away.

Meachum had taken ill in Dillingham just before Christmas and was transported to Anchorage for treatment. He reportedly suffered from a combination of a stroke and a heart attack. His friends say he appeared to be recovering at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage before he died on New Year’s Day. He was 57 years old.

Meachum wrote in an application and a biography submitted to the Alaska Judicial Council that he grew up in Detroit. He started out as a reporter after picking up a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism at the University of Michigan, but he quickly turned to a career in law. Meachum arrived in Alaska in 1979 as a second year law student, lured by adventure such as hiking in Denali Park. He worked for then-Public Defender Dana Fabe as early as 1981 and worked permanently for the agency in Juneau starting in 1986. Fabe is currently the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

Another early association with a future justice occurred in the summer of 1980 when Meachum, still studying law, clerked for Juneau attorneys Walter Carpeneti and Bill Council. Carpeneti was appointed to the Superior Court in 1981 and was later appointed to the Supreme Court in 1998. Carpeneti plans on retiring this month. His daughter Marianna Carpeneti currently works as an assistant District Attorney in Dillingham where Meachum worked as an assistant Public Defender for the past year.

Meachum defended those charged with misdemeanors and felonies. He also defended those involved in such cases that are frequently listed on any courtroom calendar, but which rarely make headlines. They include juvenile delinquency and child in need of aid (CINA) cases, and involuntary mental health commitments.

A writing sample he provided to the Alaska Judicial Council included a response to a potential appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court of an Indian Child Welfare Act case that involved a mother’s retention of parental rights of her two girls.

Meachum was recognized with the 2006 David B. Snyder award for excellence by public defenders, and he was a nominee to the Superior Court bench for Juneau in 2007.

Quinlen Stiener, head of the Public Defender Agency, wrote in an email that “his passing is a great loss to the legal community in Alaska.” As a Public Defender for thirty years, Stiener said “Rob was widely admired for his commitment to clients and his dignified, approachable manner.”

Meachum is survived by his wife and four children.

Arrangements for services are pending.

(Editor’s note: Story expanded on Jan. 4 with details on Meachum’s illness and his early association with two future Alaska Supreme Court justices.)

Recent headlines

  • The state ferry Columbia will soon sail south for repairs to a damaged propeller. That will  leave Sitka without marine highway service for two weeks. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

    Kennicott ferry fills in while Columbia is repaired

    Alaska’s largest ferry will be down for repairs longer than expected. Another ship will fill in, but it’s smaller and some travelers will have to make other arrangements.
  • Alaska Native Sisterhood members march in Wrangell during the Grand Camp's 2015 Convention in Wrangell. (Photo Courtesy Peter Naoroz/ANB)

    Brotherhood, Sisterhood prep for convention

    Alaska’s oldest Native organizations are trying to attract younger members. That and other issues are on the table at the ANB-ANS Grand Camp Convention Oct. 5-8.
  • The Explorer of the Seas docked in Skagway. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

    Skagway tourism season comes to a close

    As the air gets colder and the days shorter, the Skagway tourism season is coming to a close. Overall, tourism staff says this summer was a success. The last cruise ship of the season has come and gone and shop owners around Skagway are preparing for winter, cleaning up and closing their doors. The streets that were recently busy with visitors are quieting down.
  • A satellite view of Western Alaska and the Bering Strait, taken Feb. 4, 2014. (Photo by NASA)

    Will Obama look north for his legacy?

    These are the days when a president turns to thoughts of legacy. As the months tick down on this Administration, President Obama has created a marine national monument off new England and last month vastly expanded one near Hawaii. Alaska interest groups are working to get his attention, too. Some want him to take bold action in the 49th State before he leaves office, and others are urging him to resist those calls.


Playing Now: