from the Superior Court, Second Judicial District, Kotzebue,
Timothy Dooley, Judge. Trial Court Nos. 2KB-12-603 CR &
R Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner,
Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant. 3
Black, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal
Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General,
Juneau, for the Appellee.
Dougherty Lynch, Native American Rights Fund, Anchorage, for
Amicus Curiae Association of Village Council Presidents,
aligned with the Appellant.
Orlansky, Anchorage, for Amicus Curiae ACLU of Alaska
Foundation, aligned with the Appellant.
Amodio, Reeves Amodio, LLC, Anchorage, for Amicus Curiae
Alaska Court System, aligned with the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock,
Superior Court Judge. [*]
early September 2012, in the village of Kiana, Teddy Smith
fired a shotgun at a group of people. He then fled into the
wilderness, where he spent seven to ten days subsisting on
berries and water. Smith became exhausted and delirious, and
he later reported that he had been visited by
"inukins" - supernatural beings who are reputed to
live on the tundra.
Smith came upon a hunting cabin north of Kiana, along the
Squirrel River. There was no one in the cabin when Smith
found it, but the cabin contained food. Smith decided to stay
in the cabin.
Smith was there, two brothers - Paul and Chuck Buckel-
arrived at the cabin. Paul had lived in Kotzebue for more
than twenty years, and his brother Chuck was visiting from
out of state. The Buckels were on a bear-hunting trip, and
they had permission from the cabin owner to use the cabin.
greeted the Buckels, identifying himself by a false name.
Smith helped the brothers bring their gear into the cabin,
and he conversed with them for about an hour. All of a
sudden, Smith began screaming for the Buckels to "get
the fuck out". Smith then grabbed his pistol and shot
Chuck Buckel in the chest.
forced the Buckels out of the cabin, and he ordered Paul
Buckel to bring the brothers' boat closer to the cabin.
After Paul tied off the boat, Smith shot Paul in the arm.
Fearing for his life, Paul ran into the woods. His brother
Chuck also tried to run, but because of his chest wound, he
had to stop and lean against a tree to catch his breath.
Smith watched Chuck from about ten feet away, but he did not
shoot Chuck again. Eventually Chuck made his way into the
woods, where the brothers were reunited.
meantime, Smith loaded most of the Buckels' gear into
their boat, and then he took off in their boat down the
river. When the Buckels discovered that Smith had left, they
returned to the cabin and used the cabin owner's marine
radio to call for help. The following morning, the state
troopers arrived, and the Buckels were medivacked to receive
care for their wounds. Both of them survived.
troopers found Smith down-river from the cabin, and they took
him into custody.
was brought to trial in Kotzebue on charges of attempted
murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, and
third-degree assault. He was convicted following a jury
now seeks reversal of his convictions. He raises a series of
legal challenges to the rules that the Alaska Court System
uses for summoning prospective jurors for criminal trials in
court locations around the state - including the authority
that the rules give the presiding judges of each judicial
district to restrict the geographic area from which
prospective jurors are summoned.
reasons explained in this opinion, we reject most of
Smith's claims and we affirm the rulings of the trial
court. But with respect to Smith's claim that he should
be able to challenge a ruling made by the presiding judge of
his judicial district to restrict the area from which jurors
are summoned, we conclude that we must remand this case to
the superior court for further proceedings on this matter.
law that governs the summoning of prospective jurors for
trials in the different court locations within Alaska
Alaska Supreme Court has established venue districts for
every court location in Alaska. These venue districts are
defined by a venue map promulgated by the Alaska Supreme
Court. See Alaska Criminal Rule 18(a).
The purpose of these venue districts is to identify the court
site where a defendant's trial will presumptively be held
if the crime is alleged to have occurred within that venue
example, as defined by the supreme court's venue map, the
Kotzebue venue district is a sizeable region that (1) extends
east from Kotzebue approximately 250 miles inland, (2)
extends south from Kotzebue approximately 100 miles, and
extends more than 150 miles northwest from Kotzebue along the
coast of Kotzebue Sound, past Point Hope. When a crime is
alleged to have occurred within this district, the trial will
presumptively be held in Kotzebue.
might be imagined, all of the venue districts in Alaska
include smaller towns and villages in addition to the court
site itself. For example, the Kotzebue venue district
includes approximately a dozen smaller villages in addition
to the regional hub city of Kotzebue. But when the Alaska
Court System prepares its lists of prospective jurors within
the various venue districts - i. e., the lists of
people who can be summoned to serve on juries at the various
court locations around the state - these jury lists will
often exclude the people living in outlying towns and
Alaska Administrative Rule 15(c) - a rule that was numbered
"15(b)" at the time of the proceedings in this case
- the list of prospective jurors for any particular court
site is not drawn from the population of the entire
corresponding venue district. Rather, the list of prospective
jurors comprises only the people living within a 50-mile
radius of that court site, unless the presiding judge of that
judicial district designates a different selection area.
venue districts, this 50-mile selection radius excludes a
relatively small percentage of the population of that
district. But in far-flung rural venue districts, the 50-mile
radius rule can exclude the residents of many towns and
Kotzebue venue district, for example, only two villages
(Noorvik and Noatak) are located within a 50-mile radius of
the Kotzebue court.
for the past thirty years, the presiding judges of the Second
Judicial District (the judicial district that includes
Kotzebue) have concluded that the cost of transporting and
housing prospective jurors from even these two villages is
unreasonably high. For this reason, over the years, the
various presiding judges of the Second Judicial District have
exercised their authority under Administrative Rule 15(c) to
alter the 50-mile jury selection radius. Instead of employing
the normal 50-mile radius, these presiding judges have issued
orders declaring that the list of prospective jurors for
trials in Kotzebue should be confined to the people living
within a 5-mile radius of Kotzebue.
other words, the list of prospective jurors for trials in
Kotzebue is essentially limited to the people living in or
nearby the city of Kotzebue itself.
constitutional limitations on the Alaska Court System's
authority to define jury selection areas based on cost and
face, Administrative Rule 15 gives the Court System, and the
presiding judges of the four judicial districts, broad
authority to define jury selection areas so as to reduce jury
expenses and increase the convenience of jurors' travel
the working of Administrative Rule 15 hinges in large measure
on the boundaries of the various venue districts drawn in the
supreme court's venue map. And the driving force behind
the supreme court's selection of those venue district
boundaries is the supreme court's 1971 decision in
Alvarado v. State, 486 P.2d 891 (Alaska 1971).
Alvarado is the seminal Alaska case defining a
criminal defendant's right to demand that prospective
jurors summoned for jury service reflect the community where
the crime is alleged to have occurred.
defendant in Alvarado was an Alaska Native man who
was charged with committing a rape in the village of
Chignik. This village is located on the Alaska
Peninsula, approximately 450 air miles southwest of
Anchorage, and the great majority of its residents were
Alaska Natives who primarily pursued a rural, subsistence
lifestyle. However, the city of Anchorage was the
specified court site for crimes committed in Chignik - and,
under the jury selection rules that were in force at the
time, the prospective jurors for Alvarado's trial were
drawn from the people living within 15 miles of
15-mile jury selection radius effectively excluded not only
the residents of Chignik but also the residents of every
other Native village. And even though the Alaska Natives
comprised nearly 30 percent of the population of the Third
Judicial District (where Anchorage is located), ...