Kodiak’s only Superior Court Judge, Steve Cole, will retire at the end of January 2019 after a decade on the bench.
The 65-year-old judge came to Kodiak as a Vista volunteer in 1974.
He worked as an unpaid paralegal and eventually earned a law degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Then he returned to Kodiak as an attorney to work for Alaska Legal Services and was a public defender, private practice attorney, and magistrate before he was appointed as a judge.
He is the only Superior Court Judge in Kodiak and was appointed to that position in 2009 by then-governor Sarah Palin. He replaced Joel Bolger, who is now a member of the Alaska Supreme Court and who will soon be the chief justice of the court.
Cole’s term would have expired this year and he would have been up for a retention vote in November. Instead, he’s extended his job until the end of January.
“I want to spend time with my family, my wife, my kids, my three grandchildren. They all live around us. I want to slow down my life a little bit more,” said Cole.
Cole has lived in Kodiak for 44 years.
In 1995, he started the Kodiak Teen Court, where teens judge their peers and learn about the law in the process.
“Many of those teen judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors went on to law school, medical school,” said Madsen. “If there is a proudest moment, that’s getting that program started.”
Cole is still on the Teen Court’s board and plans to continue in that role. He said another proud moment of his career was seeing the local courthouse named after his mentor, the late Judge Roy Madsen.
“When I went on to become a judge, I met with Judge Madsen a lot to talk about how we approached cases on the bench,” said Cole. “I was at a real loss when he passed away. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the positive influence, the tips, everything that I learned from Judge Madsen.”
Madsen passed away earlier this year.
Two other things that Cole says he’s found rewarding outside of his regular legal work are coaching varsity softball for Kodiak High School and teaching a law class at Kodiak College.
Cole officially retires on January 31.
Soon, notice will be sent out to members of the Alaska State Bar Association informing them that the position is open. There will be opportunities for public comment on applicants. Two names will be selected and forwarded to Governor Bill Walker, who will then appoint a new judge. If that process is not completed by January 31, an interim judge will fill the position.
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, in the 1980s, the General Manager of KMXT, Mike Wall, worked as an attorney with Judge Cole.