By Kathleen Gilbert

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 17, 2009 ( – While Gov. Sarah Palin has recently been portrayed as betraying her conservative constituency by appointing a pro-choice judge to the Alaska Supreme Court, the pro-life group that spearheaded opposition to the move says that, while they are troubled by the pick, the governor was given little room to maneuver by the judicial appointment system in Alaska law.

The Alaska Judicial Council, an independent citizen’s commission that evaluates judicial appointments, presented the governor with judges Eric Smith and Morgan Christen as possible picks for the Supreme Court appointment, both of whom have reputations as being left-leaning and pro-abortion.

The Alaska Family Council then launched a campaign to oppose the selection of Christen in light of her history as a former board member of Planned Parenthood. In the end, however, Gov. Palin settled on Christen, after taking the unusual step of requesting extensive dossiers on both candidates.

“Alaska’s Supreme Court bears the awesome responsibility of ensuring that our court system administers justice in firm accordance with the principles laid down in our state Constitution,” stated the governor after the pick.  “I have every confidence that Judge Christen has the experience, intellect, wisdom and character to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice.”

Some conservative groups expressed concern at the decision, and much media coverage portrayed the Christen pick as a break from Palin’s “extremist” right-wing views in pursuit of a level-headed choice based on credentials. 

The governor’s political action committee, SarahPAC, responded to the concern of her pro-life base, saying, “Gov. Palin is totally pro-life. Always has been. Always will be. She believes in a culture of life from cradle to grave.”

The statement continued, “Her choice for Supreme Court judge was made in accordance with Alaska law. She chose the person most qualified from the names sent to her. The Governor’s choice has a record of fairness. That is important as the courts sort out some very thorny issues. Governor Palin’s choices were either a liberal or an independent. She went with the independent.”

Alaska Family Council’s president Jim Minnery told (LSN) that, “The primary thing is that the process is flawed.

“The way that the nominees are given to the governor in the state of Alaska, there is a political element to it that shouldn’t exist,” said Minnery.  “And so that’s the first thing.  The second part would be that … we acknowledged that that flawed process created an environment that made it difficult for the governor.”

Minnery said, however, that he had hoped that Palin “may have stood her ground a little bit” by requesting more nominees – a rare move.  Former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski is one governor who attempted to protest judicial candidates who were presented to him, but was unsuccessful in getting more options.

While he found Christen “troubling,” Minnery said that the second candidate was not necessarily a more pro-life choice.

“It’s more about the alarm and the alert that we were called to regarding Morgan Christen, as opposed to anything about Eric Smith that we thought he was better,” said Minnery.  “We had reasons to believe that both of the nominees were probably not going to fall in line with our values and our judicial philosophy when it comes to sitting on the bench.

“So what we can say is that there was not anything overt about Eric Smith and his involvement with our issues – or his decisions that were counter to our values and issues we care about – as much as there was a very obvious involvement in Morgan Christen’s past,” he said.

Minnery said that Palin has reached out to some in the pro-life community to respond to concern and explain the decision.


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