Alaska Supreme Court LIVE

Justices (from left) Peter Maassen, Daniel Winfree, Chief Justice Joel Bolger, Craig Stowers, and Susan Carney, listen as attorney D. John McKay, back to camera, argues the case as the Alaska Supreme Court visits West Valley High School for the Supreme Court LIVE educational program Thursday morning, October 10, 2019. The court heard oral arguments in an appeal case, Kaleb Lee Basey v. State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety, before an audience of high school students.

State Supreme Court Justice Craig Stowers is planning to retire June 1, according to a recent announcement. This affords Gov. Mike Dunleavy his first opportunity to select a Supreme Court justice. 

The impending vacancy was announced in a Jan. 3 letter sent by the Alaska Judicial Council to members of the Alaska Bar Association. 

Stowers is one of Alaska’s five Supreme Court judges and was appointed by Republican former Gov. Sean Parnell in 2009 to replace retiring Justice Robert Eastaugh. He served as chief justice from 2015-18.

Before his placement on the Supreme Court bench, Stowers was previously appointed to the Alaska Superior Court in 2004 by former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

His retirement will mark the first change in the bench since 2015 when former Gov. Bill Walker appointed Susan Carney to replace Justice Dana Fabe. 

According to many, Stowers is considered to be one of the more conservative justices on the bench, dissenting throughout his decade-long tenure in a number of Supreme Court cases on abortion, often coming forward as the lone dissenter urging for tighter regulation.  

The Alaska Judicial Council will be accepting applications to fill Stowers’ vacant seat until Feb. 14, according to Susanne DiPietro, executive director of the Council. After that point, the council will conduct a series of public interviews in May before passing a list of approved candidates onto the governor for his selection. 

Dunleavy will have 45 days from that point to make his selection.

The governor recently ran into issues — included in a list of grounds for ouster put together by the recall effort — when he took longer than the required 45 days to select a replacement for a vacant seat on the Palmer Superior Court.

The Alaska Constitution requires judges and justices to retire when they reach age 70. Stowers is 65. With five years left to serve, he did not clarify a reason for retirement.

According to DiPietro’s announcement, the annual salary of a Supreme Court judge is $205,179.

Stowers has lived in Alaska since 1977, residing and working throughout that time in Juneau, Denali Park and Anchorage.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.