Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Appointed "Mystery Man" to Alaska Supreme Court

One of the most powerful things a President can do is appoint Supreme Court Justices. They interpret the law, and even can call a close Presidential election.

Governor Palin has experience in making such appointments for the State of Alaska. To get a feel for how she might handle her possible role as Vice President or President, it's good to look at what she's already done as Governor.

In November 2007, Palin appointed Daniel E. Winfree, a relative unknown local Alaska lawyer to sit on the high court of Alaska.

The local reaction was mixed. Some lawyers praised the selection, and some citizens questioned it.

The Voice of the Times: A Conservative Voice for Alaskans, put it this way:

A Mystery Man on the High Court: . . . You, most likely, never heard of Daniel E. Winfree. You wouldn't know him from Pete's Green Apple if you saw him at a Starbucks counter. But one day you will hear of him, because he — along with four others on the high court — will be making judicial decisions that affect your family, your pocketbook, and even the way you measure the quality of life in Alaska.

The new justice-to-be is a legal insider. He was secretary, then treasurer, then president of the Alaska Bar Association's Board of Governors. Of note, he also is a member of the Alaska Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Will we see that background emerging in future Supreme Court rulings in which he participates?

Gov. Palin describes him as a "fine man and outstanding attorney." But wouldn't it have been better if the people of Alaska, as a whole, could have made that decision and had a role in placing him in his exalted and powerful position?

I'll admit. There's not much about Winfree on the Internet. But from what I can tell, as a lawyer he handled a broad range of cases, including land easement disputes, Constitutional issues, and an overtime pay case, among others. Whether that qualifies him to serve on the Alaska Supreme Court is an open question, and what it says about Palin's possible future appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court remains a mystery. For now.