Alaska’s Judges: Public Servants, or Robed Masters?

Judicial retention elections rarely attract much interest from the news media, or from voters. But this year we have reason to pay attention – and take action.

If you live in the 3rd Judicial District – which includes Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, Prince William Sound and Bristol Bay Communities – you have an opportunity to vote NO on one of the state’s most liberal judges: Superior Court Judge Sen Tan.

Judge San Tan has left his mark on Alaska – and it’s not a pretty one.

Subverted the rights of parents

Judge Tan struck down a common-sense measure that would require a parent to consent before an abortion can be performed on their minor daughter. Thanks to Judge Tan, a girl of any age – even 12 or 13 – can have an abortion in this state without a parent’s consent. The damage caused by Sen Tan’s decision was only partially reversed in 2010 when Alaska voters approved a ballot measure that at least gave parents the right to be informed (not consent) before an abortion is performed on their daughter.

Of course, Judge Tan’s ruling was absurd. A parent’s consent is already required before a minor can get a tattoo, a body piercing, or even an aspirin at school. There are 37 states with laws that require parental involvement before a minor’s abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld these laws as fully constitutional in nine separate decisions. Yet Judge Sen Tan arrogantly argued that Alaska’s constitution somehow prevents us from having a policy that the federal constitution and numerous other states allow. Sen Tan’s decision was nothing more than an imposition of his own extremist views, masquerading as constitutional law.

Forced taxpayers to pay for abortions

Judge Sen Tan ruled that taxpayers have to be on the hook to pay for abortions. He overturned the Alaska Legislature’s decision in 1998 to generally stop using state funds for abortions, except in cases of a threat to the mother’s life, or in cases of rape and incest.

Judge Tan ruled that if the state chose to pay for prenatal care for poor women and their unborn babies, then it must also pay for poor women to have abortions. In the lethal logic of Judge Sen Tan, if you’re using public funds to help ensure that healthy babies are born, then you must also use public funds to ensure that some children are never born. Judge Tan’s ruling completely contradicts the long-established reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court, which had previously held that since the government does not make a woman indigent in the first place, the government does not undermine that indigent woman’s “right to abortion” by simply declining to give her money to pay for it.

Judge Sen Tan is the “poster child” of left-wing judicial activism in Alaska. He is the kind of judge who seems incapable of separating his liberal views from the serious art of constitutional interpretation. If you run for elected office, you’re free to vote your personal viewpoints. That’s what we expect politicians to do. But judges are supposed to be impartially interpreting the law, not making the law.

When judges start acting like politicians, there’s only one appropriate response: treat them like politicians. And that means voting them out of office when they abuse their judicial authority and impose their personal beliefs on you.