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Sarah Palin defies conservative advice, names woman to Supreme Court

March 10, 2009 |  5:56 am

It's a long way away, so you don't hear it much in the lower 48. But some Alaska conservatives are scratching their heads this week over Gov. Sarah Palin's choice for a new state Supreme CAlaska Supreme Court  Justice Morgan Christen newly appointed by Governor Sarah Palinourt justice.

Which pleases others there and elsewhere.

Not because Palin's recent pick is only the second female such judge in the state's history -- Anchorage Superior Court Judge Morgan Christen. The current Supreme Court Chief Justice, Dana Fabe, was appointed 13 years ago by then-Gov. Tony Knowles, whose 2006 Democratic gubernatorial comeback bid was squashed by Palin's Republican reform surge.

But of the two selections offered by the independent citizens' commission, the Alaska Judicial Council, Christen was deemed the more "activist" judge by at least one state conservative organization.

The Alaska Family Council, a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, favored another Superior Court judge, Eric Smith of Palmer, saying he would be more inclined to resist activist judges on thAlaska Superior Court Judge Eric Smithe five-member court. The council did not explain its opposition to Christen.

The 47-year-old Christen, who replaces a justice facing mandatory retirement at age 70, served on the board of Planned Parenthood in the 1990s before the group began performing abortions in 2003. As a career lawyer, Christen was also active for years in the Rotary Club, United Way and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Alaska.

Palin, as she has at other times in her political career this decade,  displayed an independent streak, disregarding the outside advice, and went with her own choice. During last year's presidential campaign, Palin was seen as the conservative half of the Republican ticket with Sen. John McCain.

A Palin statement said the 45-year-old governor had "every confidence that Judge Christen has the experience, intellect, wisdom and character to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: At top, Justice Morgan Christen. Credit: Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Lower photo, Judge Eric Smith. Credit: KTUU-TV