February 14

By James Brooks

Former Alaska Chief Justice Craig Stowers has died, the Alaska Court System said Friday. Stowers, who retired from the state Supreme Court in 2020, was 67.

In a message to court staff, current Chief Justice Daniel Winfree said Stowers died peacefully on Thursday. He did not share a cause of death.

“I served with him for about a decade on the Supreme Court and can attest to his hard work, his dedication to justice in Alaska, his love of the Alaska Court System, and his great sense of humor,” Winfree said.

Born in Florida, Stowers came to Alaska in 1977 as a National Park Service ranger working at Denali National Park. After leaving the Park Service, he obtained a law degree in 1985 and worked in public and private legal practice before being named to the Anchorage Superior Court in 2004.

In 2009, then-Gov. Sean Parnell picked him for a seat on the state Supreme Court. While on the court, he frequently dissented from rulings that upheld abortion rights in Alaska and dissented from a decision on the legality of the recall campaign against current Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

In one of his last rulings, he cast a deciding vote in a split decision that dismissed a challenge to Alaska’s fossil fuel policy brought by youths concerned about climate change. (Stowers heard the case before he retired.)

Named chief justice by his fellow Supreme Court judges in 2015, he oversaw the court system during years of steep budget cuts but maintained a sense of humor, telling state legislators in 2016, “My friends, do not be afraid: Fear is the mind-killer,” using a phrase from the science fiction novel “Dune.” He served as chief justice for three years.

Stowers said in 2020 that he would retire early from the court to prevent a wave of retirements between 2023 and 2025. Dunleavy picked Dario Borghesan to replace him.