Judicial Council seat filled by Anchorage lawyer

Anchorage attorney James E. Torgerson has been appointed to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council, a state-wide panel responsible for screening judicial applicants.

Torgerson is a private attorney specializing in civil trial defense. He’s a former managing partner who has returned to litigation at the Anchorage office of Stoel Rives. His biography also lists him as a former chief of both the criminal and civil divisions for the U.S. Attorney in Alaska, and as a special assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska in Washington, D.C.

The Alaska Judicial Council checks the background and interviews applicants for the bench in Alaska. They pass on their top recommendations to the Governor who makes the final appointment for each judgeship. The Council also researches Alaska justice issues and makes recommendations for improvement.

Torgerson succeeds Kevin Fitzgerald for a seat on the council reserved for attorneys. He’ll serve a six-year term that expires in February 2020.

According to the bylaws of the Alaska Judicial Council, only public appointees to the panel must be confirmed by vote of the Alaska Legislature. Attorney members of the panel, like Torgerson, are named by the Alaska Bar Association and would not be subject to legislative confirmation.

Other councilmembers include attorneys Aimee Oravec of Fairbanks and Julie Willoughby of Juneau. Non-attorney or public members of the council include Ken Kreitzer of Juneau, Dave Parker of Wasilla, and Kathleen Tompkins-Miller of Fairbanks. Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe chairs the council and only casts a vote to break ties or when her vote might change an outcome.

Torgerson is the spouse of former Alaska Supreme Court justice and current Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Morgan Christen.

(Editor’s note: Story has been corrected to specify that only a public member or non-attorney appointees to the Alaska Judicial Council are subject to legislative confirmation.)