Sitka has a new Superior Court Justice. Longtime attorney Jude Pate was sworn in today (06-01-18) before a crowd of family, colleagues, and community members. A Who’s Who of the Alaska Justice system spoke to Pate’s character, both as a lawyer and as a bonafide Alaskan.
With a few smacks of the gavel, a panel of judges called for the crowd’s attention.
Seated in the middle in black robes, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court Craig Stowers said there’s two purely joyful duties to the job: adoptions and robing ceremonies, like this one.
“We have the privilege and the joy of welcoming another person to the ranks. This is like a changing of the guard for the court system. We have judges that have served honorably and well. They retire and they go off into the sunset or golf courses, or wherever retired judges go. (Crowd laugh) And then we have new judges that come on board,” Stowers said.
The retiring judge is Judge David George. He sat next to Stowers with a big smile on his face. Pate then walked from the audience to the front of the main room in Harrigan Centennial Hall and raised his right hand.
Stowers: Repeat after me.
Stowers: I, Jude Pate
Pate: I, Jude Pate
Stowers: Do solemnly swear or affirm.
Pate: Do solemnly swear or affirm.
Stowers: That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States
Pate: That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States
Stowers: And the constitution of the State of Alaska
Pate: And the constitution of the State of Alaska
Stowers: And I will faithfully discharge my duties
Pate: And I will faithfully discharge my duties
Stowers: As Judge of the Superior Court
Pate: As Judge of the Superior Court
Stowers: To the best of my abilities.
Pate: To the best of my abilities.
Pate’s sons, William and Joseph, and grandmother Nancy Balogh then helped him into his black robes. “He looks good in black, don’t you think ma’am?,” Stowers said to Balough.
Pate joined the other judges on stage, including Alaska Court of Appeals Judge Tracey Wollenberg, Presiding Judge of the First Judicial District Trevor Stephens, and Juneau District Court Judge Kirsten Swanson. Several made speeches about his track record as a public defender and community member.
Wollenberg spoke to Pate’s diligence with memos when handing off cases to the appellate court. “Jude made sure the next lawyer knew everything he knew. His transfer memos were always on time and were the most comprehensive I ever received,” Wollenberg said.
Pate is the former public defender, a Sitka resident since 1993. He previously worked as in-house counsel for Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Tribal Council Chairman KathyHope Erickson and adopted clan father Herman Davis also spoke at his robing ceremony.
Pate was appointed in February by Governor Bill Walker after a thorough public vetting by the Alaska Judicial Council. The other finalist was Julie Willoughby, a top defense attorney in Juneau. Stowers described the intensity of the selection process. Pate received a score of 4.6 out of 5 in a survey from the Alaska Bar Association.
Withholding names, Stowers read some of the comments submitted by his peers. “There was a letter sent by a former judge who is now retired. He said, ‘If you like to fish, you would want to fish with Judge Pate. He might even let you catch the first fish. He is that nice. He plays fair and I believe he instills in others the desire to be a better human being.'”
Looking at Pate, Stowers then said, “I welcome you brother to the bench.”
The Juneau Superior Court seat is still vacant with the retirement of Judge Louis Menendez. The Juneau Empire reports that two attorneys – Amy Mead and Julie Willoughby – were recommended for the seat by the Alaska Judicial Council. The final decision is now in the hands of Governor Walker.