Fairbanks welcomes new appellate judge

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FAIRBANKS, AK For the first time in the history of Alaska an appellate court judge will reside in Fairbanks.

Judge Bethany Harbison was appointed to be a Judge of the Court of Appeals by former Governor Bill Walker in November and her installation ceremony was held Thursday, March 14th.

Judge Bethany Harbison was appointed to be a Judge of the Court of Appeals by former Governor Bill Walker in November and her installation ceremony was held Thursday, March 14th. Judge Harbison grew up in the North East and after getting her undergraduate degree decided to study law at Harvard.

"It's just really neat I think for Fairbanks, like I said, I am a Fairbanks forever person, and just having a third appellate judge in our community I think will really help, it's good for the community”, said Harbison.

She went on to talk about her love of the outdoors and how her want to visit Alaska led her to intern at the public defender office in Fairbanks one summer; never thinking she would stay but in the end falling in love with Alaska and especially Fairbanks.
After going on to intern in Portland, Maine, she realized she missed Alaska and when she was offered a position with the Fairbanks public defender's office, she decided to move.

When asked about her decision to come back she said, "I am so glad that I did, because I loved living in Fairbanks and I am a Fairbanks forever kind of person and once I got here I am not planning to move."

In 2005 she applied to be a Magistrate Judge, from there she moved up to a Trail Court judge for a short time and then became a Superior Court judge for six years before becoming an Appellate Court judge last November.

"It's also really nice to be a neutral and to be thinking really about, to advocate essentially for what is the correct answer, which is what a neutral arbiter does, so I am enjoying the neutrality now”, said Harbison about being a judge in lieu of being an attorney.

Though her new position doesn’t come without its challenges.

"An appellate court judge is reviewing the transcript and the record from the trial court, so now the job is still very high volume, very busy, but the busyness is very much by oneself in the office reading and writing all day."

These are challenges she looks forward to overcoming as she continues to serve Fairbanks in her new role.

Tune in to the CBS News13 tonight at 5PM AKST for the full interview.