A superior court judge will likely replace Homer’s current district court judge later this year. A bill recently passed the Alaska Legislature that would increase the number of superior court judges in the state.
Nancy Meade is the general council for the Alaska Court System, which requested the change. She says a superior court judge’s jurisdiction is much larger than that of a district court judge.
“For example, a superior court judge can handle felonies and divorces and child custody and a probate proceedings and child in need of aid cases,” she said. “A district court judge can only handle misdemeanors, cannot handle child in need of aid cases except for a few emergency proceedings, can't do mental commitments or guardianships, et cetera.”
Typically, Kenai superior court judges travel to Homer to cover cases in that jurisdiction. If Homer gets its own superior judge, she would hear both superior and district court cases.
“We think that the case load is going to be reasonable,” she said. “If we need resources to assist that superior court judge with some of the district court type cases, we may be looking at adding some other judicial resources. But basically by having the superior court judge there, that's where we needed the assistance at the kind of high end of the case load.”
It’s unknown when Homer could see a resident superior court judge, but the law would go into effect in July, one day after Judge Margaret Murphy is set to retire.
“The supreme court and court system thinks it's going to be really helpful to the community of Homer to have a local superior court judge so that there is a connection with the community, by the person that's handling the proceeding, which can be a benefit to the local citizens… and in general too, we think it'll be just a lot more efficient,” she said.
The bill is awaiting Governor Mike Dunleavy’s signature. If passed, Valdez will also gain a superior judge.