Courts – State Courts – Alaska
The highest court in Alaska is the Supreme Court of Alaska. The Supreme Court consists of 5 justices. It has jurisdiction over (1) Appeals, as a matter of right from final judgments. (2) Discretionary review of decisions of court of appeals. (3) Discretionary review of any order or decision not appealable. (4) Criminal cases appealed by state only for testing sufficiency or indictment or leniency of sentence. (5) Sentence review.
Court Of Appeals
The Court of Appeals consists of 3 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Appeals for judgment in criminal cases, cases involving probation and parole, and juvenile delinquency actions. (2) Discretionary review of district court criminal appeals to supreme court.
The Superior Court consist of 32 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Original jurisdiction in all civil. Exclusive jurisdiction in domestic relations, probate, guardianship, and civil commitments. (2) Original jurisdiction in all criminal. (3) Exclusive jurisdiction in juvenile cases and appeals on record unless trial de novo granted.
The District Court consist of 18 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Civil actions up to $50,000 and small claims up to $7,500. (2) Misdemeanors, ordinance violations, and felony preliminaries.
The Magistrate consist of 39 full and part-time magistrates. It has jurisdiction over (1) Civil actions under $7,500. (2) Small claims up to $7,500. (3) Misdemeanors, ordinance violations, and felony preliminaries.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Vacancies that are created by the occurrence of an actual vacancy, the certification of rejection after an election, or an election following failure of a justice to file a declaration of candidacy shall be filled in the manner detailed in Section 22.05.080 of the Alaska Statutes. As pertaining to the mentioned statute, the judicial council shall meet within 90 days and submit to the governor the names of two of more qualified people, however, this 90 day period may be extended by the council with the concurrrence of the supreme court. The judicial council shall then submit the nominations to the governor. The governor shall fill the vacancy or appoint a successor within 45 days after receiving the nominations.
According to Section 22.05.120 of the Alaska Statutes, a supreme court justice may be impeached for malfeasance or misfeasance in the performance of official duties. The impeachment of a supreme court justice originates in the senate and must be approved by a 2/3 vote. The motion for impeachment must detail the reason for the proceeding. The impeachment trial shall occur within the house of representatives and shall be presided by a supreme court justice designated by the court. For the supreme court justice to be impeached, a concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the house is required. The judgment may not extend beyond removal from office, however, the judgment does not prevent proceedings in the courts on the same or related charges.
Restrictions Regarding Court of Appeals Judge
A judge of the court of appeals may not practice law, engage in any conduct of any profession, vocation, or business that would interfere with their judicial performance. A court of appeals judge may not hold office in a political party or any other type of office or position of profit under the United States, the state, or its political subdivisions. A judge of the court of appeals forfeits his/her judicial position when filing for another elective public office other than as a delegate to a state related or national constitutional convention. (Section 22.07.080 of the Alaska Statutes)
The venue for all actions shall be set under rules adopted by the supreme court of the state of Alaska. (Section 22.10. 030 of the Alaska Statutes)
Small Claims (Sec. 22.15.040)
A claim of relief that does not exceed $7500 (excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees) shall be heard by the district judge or magistrate as a small claim action, unless important or unusual points of law are involved or if the state is a defendant.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development may bring an action as a small claim under this statutes for wages under Alaska Statutes 23.05.220, for an amount not to exceed $20000 (excluded costs, interest, and attorney fees).
To assure simplicity and expeditious handling of all small claims, the supreme court shall prescribe the procedural rules and standard forms to be used. Also, all potential small claim litigants shall be informed if mediation, conciliation, and arbitration services are available as an alternative to litigation.
According to the Alaska Statutes, Section 22.15.060, the district court has jurisdiction over the following crimes and areas: (1) a misdemeanor, unless otherwise provided in this chapter (2) a violation of an ordinance of political subdivision (3) violation of AS 04.16.050 or AS 11.76.105 (4) to provide post-conviction relief under the Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, if the conviction occurred in -the district court.
Such as the criminal jurisdiction of the district courts and the superior court is the same, such jurisdiction is concurrent.
Qualifications of District Judges and Magistrates
The qualifications of district judges and magistrates are outlined in Alaska Statutes, Section 22.15.160. The qualifications for a district judge are as follows : (1) A citizen of the United States and Alaska, (2) at least 21 years of age, (3) a resident of Alaska for at least 5 years immediately preceding appointment, (4) Engaged in the active practice of law for at least 3 years immediately preceding appointment and at the time of appointment be licensed to practice law in the State of Alaska OR have served for at least seven years as a magistrate in the state.
A magistrate must (1) be a citizen of the United States and Alaska, (2) be at least 21 years of age, (3) A resident of the state for at least 6 months immediately preceding appointment.
The supreme court has the power to prescribe additional qualifications for both the district judges and magistrates.