While other jurisdictions use guilty but mentally ill as a compromise verdict to fill the gap between guilty by reason of insanity and a guilty verdict after an unsuccessful insanity defense, Alaska has transformed the status into a prosecutorial tool to keep mentally ill defendants incarcerated for longer than their mentally sane counterparts through denial of “good time” credit. Although Blakely was used—correctly—to prevent the denial of the mentally ill their Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury and proof beyond a reasonable doubt in December 2013’s State v. Clifton , the court of appeals eliminated any utility from this middle ground, rendering serious mental illness short of M’Naghten insanity a per se aggravating circumstance.
This Article suggests that the Supreme Court has not deprived Alaska Native Villages of a valid basis for claiming the authority to create and enforce their own tribal alcohol regulations. Every federally recognized Alaskan Native Village is situated in an area over which Congress extended the federal Indian liquor laws in 1873, in an enactment Congress has never repealed; this should logically empower Alaska Native Villages to exercise the same federally-delegated authority within their federal Indian liquor law Indian country as lower-48 tribes have within their reservations or “dependent Indian communities.” Since this delegated authority is shared with the states, this postulate does not deprive the State of Alaska of any authority to enforce its own liquor laws; liquor transactions must conform to both state law and applicable tribal law.
Extensive case law already exists in Alaska on the jurisdiction of tribal courts over domestic relations cases, with one of the seminal cases—John v. Baker —establishing that Alaska tribes have jurisdiction even in the absence of Indian country. A common assumption, though, is that Alaska tribes do not have jurisdiction over criminal offenses. This Article argues that both under the logic of John v. Baker and the development of Indian law in the Lower 48, Alaska tribes already possess inherent jurisdiction over criminal offenses within their Native villages. With the gamut of social challenges facing Alaska Natives in rural Alaska, tribes need to be empowered to exercise this jurisdiction.
Despite the exceptionally high rates of domestic violence in Alaska, Alaskan jurisprudence affords battered women varied and sparse guidance for the use of their experience as a battered woman in criminal trials. Of the minimal guidance offered, none arises in the form of a binding Alaska Supreme Court opinion, rule of evidence, or governing statute. As one of the few states lacking established jurisprudence on evidence of battered spouse syndrome, Alaska would benefit from a clearer rule regarding the admissibility of battered-spouse-syndrome evidence. This rule would interpret “reasonableness” to include a “reasonable battered woman” standard when the relevant party was battered and claims a related altered perception or extreme emotional disturbance colored her actions. Under this standard, the consequences of the battering inform and define the reasonable person against whom the battered woman is judged.
In modern civil litigation, disputes rarely proceed to trial. Summary judgment has evolved in state and federal courts across the country as a common mechanism for dispute resolution without trial. Alaska courts have largely refused to follow this trend. Instead, obtaining summary judgment in Alaska represents a nearly impossible challenge. Alaska’s heightened summary judgment standard reflects a past era—one in which advocacy occurred in a courtroom before a jury and not in chambers on paper. This Note analyzes the evolution of summary judgment in federal courts and in Alaska and discusses three procedural mechanisms affecting summary judgment in Alaska. After assessing arguments for and against modernizing Alaska’s summary judgment standard, this Note concludes with a recommendation: Alaska should adopt the reasonable jury summary judgment standard.
In 2007 and 2009, respectively, the United States Supreme Court decided Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal , abrogated Conley v. Gibson ’s notice pleading standard, and imposed a new plausibility pleading standard upon the federal court system. Alaska, along with a majority of states however, still retains Conley’s “no set of facts” notice pleading standard. This Note asks, in light of the difference between the federal and Alaska pleading standards, whether Alaska—or any state—could be forced to apply the federal pleading standard when it adjudicates federal substantive claims. Prior to Iqbal , a plaintiff in Alaska would have faced the same pleading obligations in state and federal court regardless of whether he pleaded a state or federal claim. As this Note describes, now, a plaintiff could face different pleading standards depending on not only where he brings his claim, but also, if he’s in state court, whether he brings a state or federal claim. The reason for this is the Reverse-Erie doctrine: an little-developed judicial choice of law theory that broadly asks which procedure, federal or state, applies in a state court proceeding. Using the differences between federal and state pleading standards as an opportunity to flesh out Reverse-Erie , this Note concludes that while it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would force a state to adopt the federal pleading standard, the jurisprudential framework for such a move exists.