Judge Dooley disciplined with censure by Alaska Supreme Court
Last Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an order for a public censure of Nome’s Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley, who was investigated by the Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission for allegedly making inappropriate remarks from the bench that showed cultural bias and eroded the public’s confidence in the judiciary.
A public censure is an official condemnation of wrongdoing or misconduct. The case was before Supreme Court justices Daniel Winfree, Peter Maassen and Joel Bolger and Chief Justice Craig Stowers.
The high court agreed with the findings and recommendations of the commission and stated in the order “We accept the Commissions findings that Judge Dooley’s statements adversely reflect on the integrity of the Judiciary in general […]; are undignified and discourteous to witnesses, litigants, and sexual violence victims […]; and, on their face, suggest bias or prejudice to groups of people identified in Canon 3[…].”
The order reads that the Judge Dooley’s remarks could reasonably be interpreted as showing bias and that they undermined the public confidence in the judiciary.
The investigation centered around five statements from the bench that Dooley made. In a May 2013 criminal sentencing, Dooley is on record saying “Has anything good ever come out of drinking other than sex with a pretty girl?”
In a sexual assault proceeding, Dooley linked a sexual assault of a young girl to “what is routinely done in Afghanistan where they marry six-year-old girls […].”
In a sentencing in November 2013 Dooley said that there are girls out there that are “temptresses.”
In a civil trial with unrepresented litigants, in the context of perjury, Dooley stated, “I’m gonna enforce these oaths and they’re enforceable with a 2-year sentence for perjury. And I’d be the sentencing judge. I also have a medieval Christianity that says if you violate an oath, you’re going to hell. You all may not share that, but I’m planning to populate hell.”
During a domestic violence trial, off record, Dooley responded to requests from the jury that it was hard to hear the victim’s testimony: “I’m sorry folks, but I can’t slap her around to make her talk louder.”
The Supreme Court agreed with the Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission that there is clear and convincing evidence of misconduct. The Court added in a footnote that although the Commission pointed out mitigating circumstances, it rejected that the Alaska Court System was somehow at fault. “Although Judge Dooley expressed remorse at the hearing, his remorse was both belated and undercut by his counsel’s argument that the Alaska Court System was substantially at fault for the misconduct because Judge Dooley was in a one-judge town and did not receive sufficient assistance or training,” the order reads. “For purposes of judicial conduct rules Judge Dooley — not the Alaska Court System— is responsible for his statements made while sitting on the bench; contrary to the arguments made to the Commission during the sanctions hearing, Judge Dooley is not the victim in this disciplinary matter.”
While the case was pending, Tim Dooley declined to stand for a retention election, which will be held in November in conjunction with the general election. A Superior Court judgeship becomes vacant 90 days after the election. This means that Dooley’s retirement is effective on February 8, 2017. For that reason, the court did not address the commission’s recommendations for Dooley to have a mentor judge and to undergo additional training.
Dooley was appointed by then-governor Sean Parnell in 2012 and replaced longtime Nome Superior Court Judge Ben Esch, who retired in late 2012.
According to Alaska Judicial Council Executive Director Susanne DiPietro, the process recruiting for a new judge is underway.
According to a letter to Alaska Bar Association members announcing the vacancy, the annual salary of a superior court judge in Nome is $226,716.
The application deadline is August 22.
On August 23, the Alaska Judicial Council will post the names and brief biographies of all the applicants on their web site. “We will then send out a survey to all members of the Alaska Bar Association, including sitting judges, asking them to evaluate the applicants on five key criteria: professional competence, integrity, judicial temperament, fairness, suitability of experience, and overall professional qualifications,” DiPietro described. The responses from people with direct professional experience with the applicant’s work are tallied and the results are made public. “The council also will investigate the background of each applicant, including criminal and credit history, traffic violations, any discipline with the bar, assessments from previous employers, detailed feedback from attorneys and judges involved in recent cases litigated by each applicant, and other information,” she noted.