Sullivan Announces New Council of Alaskans to Improve Federal Judicial Selection

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today announced a new nine-member Alaska Federal Judiciary Council he has convened to make recommendations for nominations to Alaska’s open federal judiciary seats. Traditionally, these recommendations are given significant weight when the White House makes nominations to the federal judiciary based on long-standing senatorial courtesy where a list of candidates is advanced by a state’s U.S. Senate delegation, the Senate’s “blue slip” practice, and the Senate’s “advice and consent” role in the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Sullivan has crafted this inclusive council based on the model of Alaska’s state judicial council, which seeks input from a broad, diverse cross-section of Alaskan professionals to recommend candidates for state judicial vacancies. Additionally, senators in more than 25 other states—like Hawaii, Texas, and Illinois—have used a council, similar to the one created by Sen. Sullivan, to vet federal judicial candidates prior to making recommendations.

“Pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, federal judges receive lifetime appointments to the bench and render decisions with far-reaching implications for our economy, land and resources, and public safety,” said Sen. Sullivan. “The gravity of a federal judge’s responsibilities warrants a thorough search for candidates, a serious examination of their records, and the input of those who will be most impacted by their rulings—Alaskans. With this inclusive and diverse council, we’ve convened not only some of Alaska’s sharpest legal minds, but also those with detailed knowledge of many critical facets of Alaska, including crime victims, law enforcement, resource development, and Alaska Native communities. Through this process, we intend to identify federal judiciary candidates of character, experience, and an unflinching commitment to the rule of law. That commitment will also demand a deep understanding of the numerous federal laws that uniquely impact Alaska, like the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and the Alaska Statehood Act, and the Supreme Court case law related to such critically-important statutes. I want to thank each of our council members for dedicating their time and expertise to facilitating a process that will serve Alaskans well.”

Below are the nine appointees to the Alaska Federal Judiciary Council:

  • Sean Parnell, who will serve as Council Chair, is Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Prior to becoming Chancellor, Parnell was an attorney practicing law in Alaska for twenty-five years. He served as the 10th Governor of Alaska from 2009-2014. He previously served in the Alaska Legislature, in both the House and later in the Alaska Senate, where he was Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Parnell was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 and became Governor of Alaska in 2009. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University, and a Juris Doctor degree from the Seattle University School of Law.
  • Stephen Cox is Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Strategy Officer at Bristol Bay Industrial. Previously, Cox served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and as a Deputy Associate Attorney General for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Before his service at the Justice Department, Cox spent several years as counsel for Apache Corporation and as a senior associate at WilmerHale. He also served as a senior aide to the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Cox clerked for the Hon. J.L. Edmondson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and he is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Houston Law Center, where he graduated summa cum laude.
  • Matt Findley is a partner at the Anchorage firm of Ashburn & Mason, P.C., where he practices appellate and commercial litigation and represents a wide array of clients in Alaska and across the United States. Findley regularly appears in both state and federal court, and has had the privilege of arguing twice at the United States Supreme Court in the critically important Sturgeon I and II cases. Findley is co-chair of the appellate section of the Alaska Bar and has received awards for pro bono services from both Alaska Legal Services and the Alaska Immigration Justice Project. Findley is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and clerked for the Alaska Supreme Court and Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Findley and his wife, Marjorie Allard, have lived in Alaska for over twenty years and have two children, both of whom are on the autism spectrum, and their son has severe hemophilia. Findley currently serves on the board of directors of the Alaska Hemophilia Association and the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership, and he is an active musician having played trumpet with the Anchorage Civic Orchestra, Anchorage Symphony, and Anchorage Concert Chorus Orchestra.
  • Jessica Graham is the General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer of Global Federal Credit Union. She has more than 20 years of in-house legal experience, including previously working as the General Counsel for two Alaska Native Corporations, and also spent time in private practice with Perkins Coie and Kirkland & Ellis. Graham clerked for the former Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and graduated in 1997 from the Duke University School of Law. Graham recently served a term on the Alaska Bar Association Board of Governors, including as President from 2021-2022. Graham is a current board member of the Alaska Community Foundation and a former board member of the Girl Scouts of Alaska and the Anchorage Association of Women Lawyers.
  • Jon Katchen is a partner at Holland & Hart in Anchorage, where his practice focuses on project development, environmental law, and commercial litigation. After graduating from the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco in 2004, Katchen clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He then returned to Anchorage to work in private practice before joining the Alaska Attorney General’s Office as an Assistant Attorney General in the Oil, Gas, and Mining Section and then serving as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General. Katchen continued in his state service as Special Assistant at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Katchen left state service in 2012 to return to private practice.
  • Jo A. Kuchle is of counsel to the Fairbanks law firm of CSG, Inc. She graduated from the University of the Pacific – McGeorge School of Law with her J.D. in 1986 and with her LL.M. in taxation in 1987. Kuchle’s practice areas are estate planning, real estate, commercial law, corporations, and probate. She is a member of the American, Alaska and Tanana Valley Bar Associations. Kuchle is a frequent speaker on estate planning and business formation topics. She is active in many Fairbanks non-profits and civic organizations.
  • Loren Leman is a civil/environmental engineer, fisherman and former public official. During his 50 years of engineering, Leman worked for CH2M Hill, MLFA, and in his own practice. Leman served in elected office in Alaska for 18 years in the House, Senate and as Lieutenant Governor, receiving state and national recognitions for his service, which included active participation in four amendments to Alaska’s Constitution. Leman serves on boards and commissions for local, state and federal governments, as well as other political, professional, educational and social service organizations. Leman was raised in Ninilchik, where he still operates a family fishing business, has a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University and an M.S. degree in civil/environmental engineering from Stanford University, and studied Arctic engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
  • Christine McLeod Pate has been working with victims of gender-based violence for over thirty years. She is currently the Legal Program Director for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, where she developed the first statewide civil legal program specifically for victims of gender-based violence. As legal program director, Pate oversees ANDVSA’s direct services program, as well as supervises training and technical assistance to attorneys and advocates working with survivors. She also provides national training for civil legal attorneys on working with victims of gender-based violence. Pate graduated from NYU School of Law with honors and flew west in 1993 to work for Alaska Legal Services Corporation in Juneau and then Fairbanks, serving many of the rural villages in Interior Alaska. Pate moved to Sitka to run a local domestic violence / sexual assault community-based program before starting at ANDVSA almost 25 years ago. Pate is a 2003 recipient of the Alaska Bar Association Hickerson Award, a 2020 recipient of the Jay Rabinowitz Award for Public Service, and an adopted member of the Sik'nax.ádi Clan, Eagle moiety of the Tlingit Tribe, and lives in Sitka and Juneau with her husband, Jude. 
  • Kim Reitmeier is President of the ANCSA Regional Association (ARA). Reitmeier is Sugpiaq, a Koniag, Inc. and Ouzinkie Native Corporation shareholder, and a Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak member. Prior to joining ARA in 2011, Reitmeier served as Chief of Staff to the President of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and Director of Alaska Heritage Tours, where she oversaw tour package operations for CIRI Alaska Tourism. A University of Alaska Anchorage graduate, Reitmeier is deeply involved in her community at every level. She received the Alaska Journal of Commerce’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, was inducted into the Anchorage ATHENA Society, and was honored as a YWCA Woman of Achievement in 2021. Currently, Reitmeier serves on the boards of the Alaska Community Foundation, Alaska Chamber, and the Alaska Business Week, and is a past advisory board member of the UAA Alaska Native Organizational Management program. Reitmeier has made education, advocacy, and collaboration cornerstones of ARA’s work. From leading a broad coalition to the U.S. Supreme Court to secure recognition of Alaska Native Corporations to educating local, state, and federal policymakers about the unique features of ANCSA, Reitmeier is passionate about and dedicated to empowering Alaska Native people everywhere.

One of Alaska’s three federal district court judgeships is currently vacant and awaiting a nomination. The council will begin soliciting applications for this judicial vacancy soon.

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