JUDGE AARSETH: NO, YES, AND NOW NO AGAIN
Judge Eric Aarseth ruled today that the Recall Dunleavy petition won’t be printed and distributed by Feb. 10, opposite his originally ruling on the matter on Jan. 10.
In court this morning, it was apparent Aarseth was concerned about making a mess of the recall petition process. He had already thrown out one of the “charges” made by the Recall Dunleavy committee — the charge that the governor had somehow obstructed the Legislature from doing its job.
Aarseth perhaps didn’t want to put the cart before the horse since the Supreme Court may throw out other charges made by the group — that the governor is incompetent, for instance, or that he broke the law because he didn’t appoint a judge in time.
If people are allowed to sign a petition, and then some of those charges are cancelled by the Supreme Court, it could create a bigger mess.
The former attorney general for Gov. Bill Walker didn’t like that decision. Jahna Lindemuth argued in court that the Supreme Court on the Stand for Salmon measure struck some of the petition language and did not require signatures to be regathered. As as aside, Must Read Alaska readers will recall that as attorney general, Lindemuth had helped the radical environmentalists draft the “Stand for Salmon” ballot measure, rewriting it to make it constitutional.
Of course, the argument she made concerned initiatives, not recalls, and rules are different. Initiatives are required to appear on a regular ballot, while recalls often go to a special election. Thus, there is no harm in terms of missing an important deadline.
That Stand for Salmon petition was then approved by the courts and the matter made it to the ballot, where it was defeated. If she could do it as attorney general, then the court could rewrite a petition to make it legal, after it had been signed, she seemed to be saying.
But having people sign a petition and then changing that petition is problematic, and it appeared that Aarseth was unwilling to take the chance that such a ruling would attract a messy appeal, one that could possibly be taken to federal court system and the U.S. Supreme Court: “Can a government change a petition after people have signed it?”
The Gov. Dunleavy camp might be celebrating a rare victory, but it will likely be short-lived, as the Recall Dunleavy Committee, with Lindemuth and Scott Kendall as their legal team, will appeal this decision to the Alaska Supreme Court, hoping the court allows the petitions to be circulated for signatures before the state’s high court takes up the case of the validity of the recall effort.