Sarah Palin's Judicial Appointments

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has appointed one justice to the Alaska Supreme Court: Daniel Winfree. Here's part of her statement on his appointment.(US States News November 16, 2007.)

Winfree, 54, was born in Fairbanks. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon in 1977 and both a law degree and a master's degree in business administration from the University of California in 1981.

He worked for Perkins, Coie law office in Anchorage 1982-85, then opened his own law office in Valdez, practicing there from 1985-90. Winfree returned to Fairbanks to open a legal partnership, Winfree and Hompesch, which he closed in 1996 in favor of the Winfree Law office, which he has operated in Fairbanks since 1996 as a six-attorney private law office.


In 2006, Winfree was hired as general counsel and executive director for the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation. He has worked tirelessly to provide free legal services to Alaskans in need, and was a driving force in a four-year, 200-case effort to recover federal funds lost to physically and mentally disabled Alaskans in the bankruptcy of a Fairbanks service organization.

Winfree has been actively involved in the state's legal community, serving as a member, secretary, treasurer, president-elect and president of the Alaska Bar Association Board of Governors from 1990-96. He was also a member and president of the Western States Bar Conference; and member of the American Bar Association, the Alaska Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Winfree has served on the University of Alaska, Fairbanks' College of Fellows from 1992-96 and on the university's Museum of the North advisory council since 2006. He has been a Rotary Club member and officer since 1992, and a member of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce from 1987-2006. Winfree has also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Prince William Sound Community College, and at the University of Alaska's Tanana Valley Campus.

Winfree, age 54, was sworn in on February 13, 2008 (AP, 2/13/08.) I'll try to update with any notable decisions and Winfree authored opinions later tonight. If you find any, feel free to put them in comments.

Gov. Palin may be appointing another Alaskan Supreme Court Justice. Due to a justice's mandatory retirement effective in February, 2009, applications are being accepted for the position until Sept. 26. (Anchorage Daily News, 8/27/08.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    Wow! (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 01:53:36 PM EST
    The TL crew is on a tear today!  Keep up the great work.

    Thank you Jeralyn (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by BernieO on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 01:54:04 PM EST
    for doing so much to get us this objective information about Palin. Nothing too scary here.

    I Second That (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Jane in CA on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:57:15 PM EST
    Thanks for the very informative posts on Palin today, Jeralyn.  I appreciate the research, objectivity, and time that have gone into them, particularly since I know how opposed to this ticket you are.

    I third that... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Upstart Crow on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:12:50 PM EST
    wish our media was as alert.

    The most surprising fact (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by DemForever on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 01:59:38 PM EST
    is that Perkins Cole has an Anchorage office

    And overall an impressive bio (none / 0) (#4)
    by DemForever on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:00:19 PM EST
    With all that oil (none / 0) (#5)
    by seeker on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:03:41 PM EST
    drilling, transportation, and bribery going on, it's not so surprising.

    Interestingly (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Steve M on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:19:22 PM EST
    There are no law schools in Alaska at all.

    Just (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:28:45 PM EST
    goes to show that you learn something new everyday.

    Is that a good thing, in your opinion? (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:21:14 PM EST
    The Alaskans probably think so (none / 0) (#17)
    by daryl herbert on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:28:47 PM EST

    Nah (none / 0) (#23)
    by Steve M on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 04:01:20 PM EST
    I found out the hard way, when I was in Alaska for a month while I needed to study for the bar, and since there are no law schools there are no bar review courses available!

    Excellent pre-planning! (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:46:48 PM EST
    That would be a good thing............. (none / 0) (#25)
    by SueBonnetSue on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 04:42:52 PM EST
    No law school in Alaska, but (none / 0) (#29)
    by Beldar on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:54:27 PM EST
    A law review devoted to Alaska law is, I believe, published at UCLA under the title "UCLA-Alaska Law Review"!

    I had occasion to work with Alaskan local counsel on a case in the mid 1980s. Most of them are in Anchorage, and some commute to Juneau some of the time for state government matters. There are some very good lawyers there, although they tend toward smaller and more eclectic law firms, generally reflecting the frontier spirit of the state. And yes, they all got their legal training out of state. Even Palin went to college in Hawaii (briefly) and then at the University of Idaho.


    Hmmm.. a Rotarian, eh? (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by EL seattle on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:24:06 PM EST
    Are there any good conspiracy theories out there that involve the Rotary Club?  There's gotta be something.  Maybe at least a hand-me-down from the Shriners or Opus Dei?

    More likely the Masons (none / 0) (#20)
    by BernieO on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:52:20 PM EST
    which could provide all kinds of wild theories.

    If I this as a Supreme Court thread... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Oje on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:26:29 PM EST
    From the previous open thread, cal1942 really hit upon an important point:

    If Democrats refuse to assert their control of the Senate then we are truly lost. The court scare argument reinforces the notion that Congress has abandoned its Constitutionally mandated role as a check on the executive.

    It is really worse than s/he suggests, it is blackmail. Democrats speak as if Senators will abdicate their responsibilities to protect Americans should McCain become president.

    For those of us (unlike the faux progressives) who truly care about feminist and women's rights, this scare tactic is an opening to secure promises from Senators this election that they will oppose any nominee who seems likely to undo Roe v. Wade. If this election is truly about the court (in order to keep Democratic women in line), then we should wield the DNC's wedge issue as a bludgeon against our own party to secure real change and commitments from our party.  

    We have many Senators up for election this year. Talkleft should demonstrate that Sarah Palin is just as  likely as McCain to reverse Roe v. Wade and the 20th-century history of Supreme Court.   But, if talkleft just leaves it at that, and it do es not follow up with whether every Senator up for (re-)election will commit now, before the election, that they will block any pro-life court appointee, then this is just as much fear mongering as the faux progressive Blogger Boyz.

    it's not an open thread (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:33:40 PM EST
    and please do not change the topic.

    oops,. i will move it to an open thread, (none / 0) (#12)
    by Oje on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:55:30 PM EST
    you can delete the string

    I see no hints of (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:36:48 PM EST
    winger-dom here, does anybody else?  There's certainly no indication he was involved in any of that odious stuff about allowing medical personnel to refuse to participate in abortion or birth control methods they don't like.

    It would be worth looking up what the hospital's record was while he was there to see if there was any of that going on.

    Sounds good on the surface, though, and not at all the kind of judicial appointment people have direly been speculating she'd make if she ever became president.

    excellent, thanks for the info (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by DandyTIger on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:16:01 PM EST
    and update as you learn more. This is exactly what we need. Well, we know she's a republican of course, so we'll expect right wing stuff, but the more we know the better.

    Alaskans are an interesting bunch (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Exeter on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:29:33 PM EST
    I would never describe them as conservative or right wingers. VERY libertarian and feel estranged from the lower 48. They are pro-mining and pro-drilling, mostly because they live amongst so much raw wilderness that they can't ever imagine making a dent in it (similar to the attitude of most people in the lower 48 when we had the wilderness to people ratio as Alaska). A lot of blue collar workers, pridefully unreligious, big drinkers, and a large Inuit population are a few thoughts that come to mind.  

    Bottomline, I can never them voting for someone that is a rightwing nut.

    That used to be the case (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by BernieO on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:54:25 PM EST
    in WVa and but then the strip mines and now mountaintop mining is changing the picture for a lot of people,

    I hope Jeralyn (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:31:43 PM EST
    can get more information. So far, this guy sounds like an old time Eisenhower Republican. Of course, I could be off base here when more comes out.

    yeah, this guy (5.00 / 4) (#21)
    by frankly0 on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 03:53:55 PM EST
    would seem pretty innocuous to me so far.

    My guess is that in general if Palin is going to have some serious questions to answer it's going to have a lot to do with the peculiar culture, and small scale sort of government of Alaska.

    I see her as mainly being an archetype of Pioneer Woman -- with both the good and the bad. Something of a throwback to an earlier, less sophisticated (i.e., cruder) culture, but also a very strong and independent type. It will be interesting and revealing to see how others react to her as more is revealed.

    I do wonder if she won't have considerable appeal in the Mountain states, where Obama hopes to establish a foothold.


    Actually (5.00 / 3) (#24)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 04:09:28 PM EST
    I think she just blew Obama's entire western strategy. I don't think he had much of a chance in places like MT anyway but it probably goes to zero now. I'd imagine that CO and NV are also gone. We're back to OH and FL and that's not looking so good right now.

    I'm afraid that I must agree (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by SueBonnetSue on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 04:47:27 PM EST
    She's going to play VERY well in the Western US.  

    According to the Rassmussen poll, she's already playing well.  She polled better on her first day than did Biden when he was introduced.  I've noticed that some of the PUMA's are equally thrilled.  ugh.  


    Wouldn't be QUITE so gloomy (none / 0) (#30)
    by Southsider on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:58:17 PM EST
    I think Obama can still make CO competitive (ultimately I think he loses, but the margin will be small and McCain has to play some serious defense) and I think he takes NM.  I'm honestly surprised that McCain is polling so well in NV given the closeness of the state in 2004.  I guess proximity has a lot to do with that one.  

    I also think Obama has IA in the bag, though I'm frankly a little scared at what might happen if the Palin pick energizes the (very, very VERY powerful) Dobsonite evangelical base in that state.  These are the folks who Palin has really had an immediate effect upon, and a lot of them (for example my girlfriend's parents) were planning on sitting the election out before McCain injected this "greased watermelon" into the election.  


    AK is frontier land (none / 0) (#26)
    by Prabhata on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 04:46:58 PM EST
    It's understandable that her choices for Supreme Court would be limited.  I like that the person she nominated was someone who served to help Alaskans with legal needs.  Not bad for the next VP.

    This is why (none / 0) (#31)
    by andrys on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:41:35 PM EST
    talkleft.com is my first stop of the day and my last.

    Thanks, Jeralyn (and BTD and TChris).

    Alaska Judicial Appointments (none / 0) (#32)
    by bobalaska on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 10:33:51 PM EST
    As you may know, appointments in Alaska differ from the federal government and a number of states.

    The governor doesn't get to appoint whomever he/she wants.  Candidates apply to a Judicial Commission, which screens candidates and sends (up to?) 3 to the governor- and the governor picks one.  

    It has irked previous governors that they couldn't pick someone who had the "correct" judicial temperament.  It's a great system, and keeps the process from being overly political.