Alaska Supreme Court: Recall to be argued by phone, out of sight of Alaskans



State emergency? National crisis? No worries. The Alaska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday, March 25 in a purely political matter — the partisan attempt to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

For the State Department of Law, one lawyer — Margaret Paton-Walsh — will represent the Division of Elections, which decided the merits of the recall case did not qualify for a recall. She will argue that the law and Alaska Constitution never intended that the recall process should be used for frivolous partisan and policy disputes over how large the budget cuts should be in a time of fiscal crisis. She’ll argue that appointing a judge a few days after the statutory deadline is not the same as “breaking the law,” especially when there was no judicial vacancy. She’ll argue that all communications from the Governor’s Office are political, and that attacking a governor for being political is absurd, when he occupies a political office.

For the Recall Dunleavy Committee, former members of the Walker Administration will argue that it’s not for the Division of Elections to decide what is worth a recall — they followed the process outlined by Alaska Statute to the letter. Former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and former Walker Chief of Staff Scott Kendall will tell the Supreme Court that it’s up to voters to decide the merits of the recall, not for the Division of Elections.

The two lead lawyers from the Walker Administration won’t be alone, however. They have three support lawyers in Anchorage-based Samuel Gekler Gottstein and Susan Orlansky, and Seattle super lawyer Jeffrey Feldman.

One lawyer against five lawyers seems daunting, but in fact most Alaska political and legal observers think the Supreme Court has already made up its mind and that this is merely a small bump in the road for the Recall Dunleavy Committee.

Last month, Chief Justice Joel Bolger was pressured to recuse himself from the case because he had made several statements that appeared prejudicial against Gov. Mike Dunleavy. He eventually relented.

Another Supreme Court justice is married to a highly compensated employee at the University of Alaska, an organization that took a 17 percent cut from the Dunleavy Administration in last year’s budget, and will get a similar cut this year. If Dunleavy is removed from office, the University may escape a cut that the Board of Regents negotiated with Dunleavy for next year. That justice, Daniel Winfree, has a direct conflict of interest due to his wife’s job, but has not recused himself.

[Read: Under pressure, chief justice recuses himself from recall case]

The arguments in front of the Supreme Court will be heard via telephone, since the courts are practicing social distancing as a result of fears over the COVID-19 coronavirus. All criminal jury trials have been postponed for now, but it appears the Supreme Court wants to clear this political trial off of its calendar.

The Alaska Supreme Court advises that the public may be able to witness the event by watching Gavel Alaska, although there is no guarantee that the public station will be broadcasting it. No members of the public will be allowed in the courtroom.

Not all oral arguments are videotaped and with the State ban on nonessential travel, there’s no guarantee this one will be available. Sometimes these Supreme Court arguments broadcast are broadcast live and one with the level of interest this case generates will surely fall into that category with Juneau-based KTOO, which operates Gavel Alaska. That is, if the current Anchorage shelter in place orders from the mayor and the current travel bans from the Department of Health and Social Services do not apply.

Oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court typically air on Sundays, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Check the Gavel Alaska website for the schedule.

Here is the exact recall petition language that will be considered by the Supreme Court at 1:30 pm on March 25:

Statement of Grounds: Neglect of Duties,Incompetence, and/or Lack of Fitness, for the following actions:

  • Governor Dunleavy violated Alaska law by refusing to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations.
  • Governor Dunleavy violated Alaska Law and the Constitution, and misused state funds by unlawfully and without proper disclosure, authorizing and allowing the use of state funds for partisan purposes to purchase electronic advertisements and direct mailers making partisan statements about political opponents and supporters.
  • Governor Dunleavy violated separation-of-powers by improperly using the line-item veto to: (a) attack the judiciary and the rule of law.
  • Governor Dunleavy acted incompetently when he mistakenly vetoed approximately $18 million more than he told the legislature in official communications he intended to strike. Uncorrected, the error would cause the state to lose over $40 million in additional federal Medicaid funds.


  1. Like everything else going wrong, it’s all Trump’s fault. I’m out of toilet paper . Oh Nancy, please save me .

  2. Why waste critical time with leftist BS by the “supremes” of Alaska? It seems to be a foregone conclusion even without their “hearing” that no citizens can attend. WTF? For those idiots to stage a ‘kangaroo’ court in the middle of this national emergency speaks volumes about the real agenda of the Alaskan “judiciary”. Time to rid ourselves of these leftist “pseudo” judiciary members. A disgrace to all Alaskans at this time of emergency. I, personally, am completely disgusted. I’ll never trust any of them in the future.

  3. Seems like a very logical decision given the “social distancing” recommendations at this point for our society.
    If the Legislative branch can continue without public observation then surely the Judicial branch should move forward as well.

    • One would think we could set this aside for a moment. Maybe 30-60 days? And then the partisan antics and special interests frauds can resume. It would be nice if just once, we could focus on this current crisis, and be Alaskans, first, for a month or two, at most. I know that would upset the plans to hold any special election when their will be the least amount of turnout, because the Recall folks fear desperately having to face voters en masse- but even still. It would have been nice to see them set that aside for the good of the state. Knowing that’s never been their motivation tho, I suppose it makes perfect sense. Win at all costs. Power for power’s sake.

      At least they are consistent…

      • Lawrence,
        Right now 14 people in state have tested positive and NO one has been hospitalized.
        I would argue it is best to get as much “business” as possible accomplished now while things are not too bad in society.
        If the CDC and WHO are remotely correct with predictions then the pandemic will last around 18 months.
        Do you think government and the economy would survive a 18 month shutdown?
        Please be sensible as more Alaskans have been hospitalized by the common flu then Coronavirus this year.

        • And yet- pushing this off 30-60 days would harm who? It would in fact, come before the most voters, if left to the November elections. The recall folks can submit their signatures timed for one election, The same one we are already planning to have, saving the state Potentially millions and putting this important question before the most Alaskans possible, where we will have the highest turnout, and long after this health and economic crisis is past its worst, so why won’t they?

          If you’ll permit me, I’ll offer you one possible reason: they don’t want to.

          Putting it before the most Alaskan voters they could, is the last thing they want to do, because that is not what this is about. This is about getting the PFD into the hands of special interests, permanently, and about squashing the idea that the people of Alaska could ever dare elect someone to right size government.

          In the middle of all this, that is their only focus. Not the health crisis, not the economic crisis, but stealing the PFD and insuring bloated government for the next generation. And that, is why the AK Supreme Court, will hold whatever hearing it can, to further the completely partisan recall, because they are as corrupt as the ones pushing it.

          Here’s a thought: if you think taking Alaskans PFD and building a budget and bureaucracy we can’t afford is a great idea, just run a candidate on that platform and if Alaskans want it, you’ll win. And if you don’t, instead of trying to game the system, and steal an election, why not go back and reflect on why you lost? Maybe Alaskans don’t want to be serfs…

  4. A fitting finish to a recall initiative started by a group of disgruntled societal parasites fearing a future absent the array of handouts they’ve come to know and love. The absolute minimum standard for any future recall should be the ability to balance a checkbook without asking for help.

    This friends, is the end of the free stuff. You should be envisioning a sold off and parted out ferry system, the death of the PFD program, dramatically reduced social programs and a return to personal responsibility. Do you depend on those? Well… bye.

  5. Justice Dan Winfree needs to recuse. The appearance of his impropriety will haunt him otherwise, and place him in jeopardy of severe ridicule and possible Bar complaints. His wife, Cathy, could also resign her super high paying position at UAF.

  6. Jeff Feldman is no “super lawyer”! He has never taken a case that he and most others thought he could not easily win. He is average. Trust me. I know him! This Supreme Court is very liberal and will likely rule accordingly.

  7. The same supreme court that denied the appeals of the Fairbanks-4, with rulings which more or less said that just as long as the letter of due process was followed; that the 4 had colorable claims of absolute innocence, wasn’t sufficient reason to reopen their cases.

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