ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Jahna Lindemuth didn’t get a seat on the Alaska Supreme Court last month, but she got the attention of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker when she was a finalist.
“When I got to know Jahna during the Supreme Court nomination process, I knew she would be a good fit with my administration at some point,” Walker said on Tuesday when introducing Lindemuth as Alaska’s new attorney general.
The Anchorage attorney known for her pro bono work with the so-called Fairbanks Four replaces Craig Richards, who resigned late last week. She will begin in early August.
Lindemuth said she has a steep learning curve, coming to state service from the private sector.
“It really comes down to providing the best legal advice to the state I can,” she said. “So, the way I approach this, the state is my new client, and I’m its lawyer,” she said.
Walker’s office said Lindemuth is the second woman to be appointed as Alaska’s top lawyer, and was among four finalists for the job. The first female attorney general was Grace Schaible, who served between 1987 and 1989 under the administration of then-Gov. Steve Cowper.
Lindemuth has extensive experience in commercial litigation, administrative management and appellate work. Born and raised in Anchorage, Lindemuth is a partner in the law firm, Dorsey & Whitney, and heads the company’s Anchorage office.
She and the law firm did extensive work on behalf the three Alaska Native men and an American Indian - George Frese, Eugene Vent, Marvin Roberts and Kevin Pease - who had been convicted of second-degree murder even though they maintained their innocence in the 1997 death of teenager John Hartman in Fairbanks.
Alaska Native leaders had long advocated for the release of the Fairbanks Four, saying the convictions were racially motivated and emblematic of how indigenous people have been treated by the justice system.
The men reached a settlement with the state last year that threw out their murder convictions. As part of the settlement, the three men remaining in jail were freed. All four agreed not to sue government entities.
Walker said he didn’t know Lindemuth at the time, but said her work on the case did influence him.
She said the case was among the most meaningful work she had ever done in her life.
“I truly believe in the innocence of those four men, and I’m really happy they’re out of prison now and enjoying life like the rest of us,” she said.
Lindemuth, who starts in August, also said it’s important to keep in mind “there are real people involved in every decision that gets made.”
Besides Lindemuth, Walker at Tuesday’s news conference also introduced other recent additions to this cabinet, including natural resources commissioner Andy Mack, education commissioner Michael Johnson and public safety commissioner Walt Monegan.
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