Alaska in Brief

Alaska Judicial Council nominates two for job as Alaska’s top public defender

By: - August 26, 2023 4:00 am
The Boney Courthouse building in Anchorage holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The Boney Courthouse building in Anchorage holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Judicial Council has nominated Judge Terrence Haas of Bethel and assistant Anchorage public defender Gary Soberay to replace Samantha Cherot as the state’s top public defender.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy will make the final selection, which is subject to a legislative confirmation vote next year.

Cherot’s four-year term at the helm of the Public Defender Agency is expiring in September. That’s the state organization that provides constitutionally mandated defense attorneys in criminal cases.

The agency has been stressed by staffing shortages that caused the agency to begin refusing some cases in Nome and Bethel. State lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy approved an emergency funding boost this spring.

The nonpartisan Judicial Council vetted 10 applicants for the job opening, ultimately picking just two nominees after two days of interviews and public testimony in Anchorage.

The Judicial Council’s nomination process capped a busy week for council members, who also nominated four people for an upcoming vacancy on the Anchorage Superior Court.

Dunleavy will make the final selection from among senior assistant attorney general Kate Demarest, district court judge Kari Lyn McCrea, district court judge David Nesbett, and private practice attorney Danée Pontious, all of whom live in Anchorage.

Seven attorneys applied for the upcoming opening.

The council declined to fill upcoming openings in the Juneau Superior Court and Sitka Superior Court because of a lack of applicants. 

The council is required to nominate at least two people for every opening, and only two attorneys applied for each of the vacancies.

A new round of applications for those jobs is expected to open later this month.


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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected].