District of Alaska
The District of Alaska encompasses the entire state of Alaska and constitutes a single federal judicial district. Established in 1884, it has a rich history intertwined with the growth and development of Alaska itself. The district covers a vast geographic area, but has a relatively small population concentrated in a few urban centers like Anchorage and Fairbanks. It contains no counties, but is divided into census areas. The District of Alaska has played an important role in key events and cases related to native rights, environmental regulations, and other issues unique to Alaska.
- U.S. Marshal: Robert Heun
- Courthouse: James M. Fitzgerald United States Courthouse and Federal Building
- Address: 222 West 7th Avenue, Room 189 Mail Stop 28, Anchorage, AK 99513-7568
- Phone: (907) 271-5154
- Established: May 17, 1884
- Counties: Alaska constitutes one judicial district.
- Court Locations: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Nome
History and Background
The District of Alaska traces its origins back to the Alaska Purchase in 1867, when the territory was transferred from Russia to the United States. For the next 17 years, Alaska was governed by the military until a civil government was formed in 1884. That same year, Congress established the District Court for the District of Alaska.
Some noteworthy cases and events in the district’s history include:
- 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act case that awarded 44 million acres of land to Alaska Natives
- 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and related litigation over damages
- Subsistence rights cases related to fishing and hunting by Alaska Natives
District Composition and Organization
The District of Alaska spans over 663,000 square miles, making it the largest federal judicial district by far. However, it has a relatively small population of just over 730,000 people. The major population centers are Anchorage and Fairbanks, but Juneau is the state capital.
The district contains no counties, but is divided into census areas including the Aleutians East Borough, Anchorage Municipality, Bethel Census Area, and others. There are four divisions, each covering different parts of the sprawling district.
Primary administrative offices and courts are located in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. Satellite offices and courtrooms are located in Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome, and Ketchikan.
Courts and Judiciary
The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska is the federal trial court, hearing both civil and criminal matters. There are three district judges and two magistrate judges currently serving.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court handles bankruptcy filings from throughout the district. There are two bankruptcy judges.
The district’s U.S. Probation Office oversees probation and parole for convicted individuals. The Clerk’s Office maintains court records and documents.
The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for law enforcement in the District of Alaska. The Marshals uphold federal laws, protect the judiciary, apprehend fugitives, house and transport prisoners, and perform other duties.
The current U.S. Marshal for the district is Robert Heun. The Marshals have offices in the main cities, allowing them to cover the district.
The District of Alaska has played a pivotal role in the state’s history since Alaska became a U.S. territory. It has overseen important cases and helped shape laws regarding native rights, the environment, and resource management. With its huge size and small population, the district faces unique logistical and legal issues. But the district court, probation office, and Marshals Service continue to uphold federal law across Alaska. Going forward, the District of Alaska will likely continue to be at the forefront of key issues affecting this strategic and environmentally significant state.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How many judges serve on the District Court of Alaska?
A: There are currently three district court judges and two magistrate judges serving on the court.
Q: What was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act?
A: This was a 1971 law that awarded 44 million acres of land and $1 billion in compensation to Alaska Natives in settlement of their land claims.
Q: Does the District of Alaska contain any counties?
A: No, Alaska’s judicial district does not contain formal counties, but is divided into census areas.
Q: Where is the District of Alaska courthouse located?
A: The main federal courthouse is the James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse in Anchorage.
Q: How can I access court records for the District of Alaska?
A: Court records can be accessed online through PACER or viewed in person at the federal courthouse clerk’s offices.