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Alaska Judicial Council Explains Move Against Palmer Judge

Published On: Jun 24 2014 11:39:22 PM AKDT
Alaska Judicial Council Explains Move Against Palmer Judge

The Alaska Judicial Council is taking the rare step of telling voters they should remove Palmer District Court Judge William Estelle from the bench when voters make judicial retention choices on Nov. 4.

The judicial council is taking that step because of a series of allegedly false sworn statements by Estelle. Every two weeks, Alaska judges are required to sign a statement saying they haven't had any cases awaiting decisions for more than six months.

But a trial that Estelle presided over ended in January 2011 and wasn't decided until March 2012 -- nearly seven months later than he's allowed. He was also a week late on a 2013 case, but he signed pay affidavits and got paid for work he hadn't yet done.

The council calls Estelle’s actions unintentional but reckless, and it's why its five members voted unanimously to recommend Alaskans vote him off the bench -- something the council has only recommended for 14 judges in its history.

“The Judicial Council met at the beginning of June and made its recommendations for all judges who appear on the ballot in 2014,” said Susanne DiPietro, the council’s executive director. “There are 14 judges on the ballot, and the council did unanimously recommend the retention of every judge on the ballot except Judge Estelle.”

The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct separately investigated Estelle for the same issue. That commission has recommended formal charges, and the Alaska Supreme Court will decide whether he should face punishment.