The oral arguments from James Bopp, Jr. on the plaintiffs’ side and from Jeffrey Feldman on the defendants’ side took up about an hour; at the end of that time, Judge John H. Sedwick was brief and to the point: he would rule from the bench, and his ruling was to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint against the Alaska Judicial Council. His written order will be out next week, he hoped; and — court adjourned.
A very lot of smiles on the faces of members of the Alaska Judicial Council and its staff as they left Courtroom 3.
Just a few brief observations to make for now before I go get a bite to eat, then come back home and crash for a few hours.
I’m pleased to say that I understood most of what both sides argued — the arguments followed pretty closely what I’d already read in the paperwork, and I’d read that stuff enough that I was even by now familiar with the most important court rulings they relied upon. But while I’ve never seen these attorneys in action before, and know that Bopp is a pretty talented lawyer (he reportedly just accepted an award in Washington, DC Wednesday night as the Republican lawyer of the year), I felt a lot of stumble in his arguments, especially in his rebuttal when Judge Sedwick challenged him on a few items. Feldman’s presentation, however, seemed clearly thought out and was logically presented from beginning to end. His characterization of the plaintiffs’ case was to my mind very apt: “cobbled together,” he said.
I also thought it a nice bit of poetic justice that the defendants’ case was presented by Mr. Feldman — who had, as then-chair of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, been the first-named defendant in Mr. Bopp’s previous lawsuit, Alaska Right to Life Political Action Committee v. Feldman. (Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh, who led the Alaska Judicial Council’s defense on behalf of the State of Alaska, was beside him at the defense table, but was not called upon to speak. Plaintiffs’ local counsel Ken Jacobus was likewise present on the plaintiffs’ side, as was a younger man who I assume to be Joseph A. Vanderhulst, a colleague of Bopp’s at the James Madison Center for Free Speech.)
Anything else I might think of to say will have to wait until I get some sleep.
Meantime: a very happy day to you, Alaska Judicial Council members and staff, and thanks to the legal team that provided such an able defense. It was also a privilege to sit in the courtroom of Judge Sedwick, whose name I’ve seen many a time in newspaper accounts, but who I’d never seen in person till today.
The Alaska Constitution remains intact.
Update 1:15 PM
- 9/11/09. “Lawsuit challenging judge choice tossed” by Lisa Demer (Anchorage Daily News).
“This is wonderful news,” [Chief Justice and chair of the Alaska Judicial Council Walter] Carpeneti said after Friday’s hearing, which he along with most of the judicial council attended.
Bopp said he would appeal.
That had been my question. But at least now the Alaska Judicial Council can proceed with the work necessary to place names in nomination to fill Justice Eastaugh’s Alaska Supreme Court position when he retires on November 2.