Breaking: State public defender resigns - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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Breaking: State public defender resigns

Alaska’s Public Defender Quinlan Steiner resigned today.

Steiner was appointed to serve as the Public Defender for the State of Alaska and Director of the Alaska Public Defender Agency in 2005. He has worked at the agency since he was in law school in the 1990s.

The agency’s mission is to provide constitutionally mandated legal representation to indigent individuals appointed by the courts in criminal and other state-initiated litigation. Steiner oversees a staff of about 100.

Alaska’s public defenders took on over 22,000 cases last year and Steiner has advocated for more funds to help with the workload.

Last month, the Dunleavy Administration put travel limits on Steiner, to limit his travel to Juneau. He was asked to testify in committee via teleconference. In response, Rep. Matt Claman, of House Judiciary, put off hearing one of the governor’s pieces of anti-crime legislation, HB 49, saying that until Steiner could travel, other members of the Dunleavy team would not be allowed to testify in person in his committee, he said.

“The governor’s attempt to stifle the voice of Quinlan Steiner, Alaska’s Public Defender, is also alarming. Lawmakers are working through a variety of legislation aimed at making Alaska safer,” said the Democrat-led House Majority in a statement.

“There appears to be no precedent in Alaska history in which the Governor authorized prosecutors to travel to Juneau to testify on criminal justice bills but refused the same courtesy to public defenders,” said Rep. Zack Fields, who co-chairs the State Affairs Committee. “Having the perspective of both prosecutors and public defenders is crucial when reviewing bills related to public safety.”

Tuckerman Babcock, the chief of staff for the governor said that he approved travel for Steiner. Claman apparently was operating with not enough information when he blew it up in the political arena.

Check back for updates to this story.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • What dim has ever said “no, we don’t need more money”? None that I can think of or heard of. A friend of mine had a minor legal issue and pled not guilty. The judge asked him if he wanted a “public defender”. He said yes. The judge proceeded to tell him that he must pay $3,000 for the public defender. Even offered him a payment plan. My friend didn’t have that much money, so he said no thank you and wound up having to change his plea to “guilty”. He was sentenced according to the “guilty” plea. Miscarriage of justice? Certainly appears to be. Why do the “public defenders” need more $$ when the court system makes poor people pay through the nose or be found guilty?
    I have been under a misconception for many years. I thought “public defenders” were furnished to those who couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. Doesn’t appear to be the case, at all.

    Dim politicians are using their positions as leverage against conservative Alaskans, for a multitude of reasons. This needs to be stopped. Favoritism has no place in politics, especially in Alaska. Aren’t all Alaskans supposed to be united for the greater good? I guess not. It certainly doesn’t appear so. The same BS is going on in Alaska now as in D.C. and it’s a damned shame. All dims want MORE, MORE, MORE, and to heck with everyone else.

    • Ben,
      When you said: “Favoritism has no place in politics, especially in Alaska.”
      I sure had a good belly laugh…
      “Aren’t all Alaskans supposed to be united for the greater good?”
      Think about what you wrote…making this just another “Blue on Red” comment looses grasp of the severity of the situation.
      This person who resigned obviously felt “disenfranchised” from the current administration and their attempt at blocking his experience and testimony at hearings.
      This should be investigated further by our state legislature.
      Sadly, this bully mentality is prevalent throughout much of American Politics today.
      If you really believe what you wrote, maybe you can find ways to unite us as Alaskans instead of further dividing between Liberal and Conservative…because in state data will show you that a majority lie in the center and are registered as undeclared.

  • If you think $3,000 is paying through the nose for an atty you haven’t been around much.

    • If you don’t have it, $10 is a lot of money. I have been “around” a lot, for a long time. Just rarely in need of a lawyer. The last one was to help compose my will. Thank you, just the same.

    • I don’t view it so much in terms of money. It’s more a matter of judges who aren’t the least bit concerned about “justice”, only about making work for their fellow lawyers through the forms of coercion that the judicial process provides. Entities in the private sector who act the way the court system acts in that regard are routinely dragged through RICO prosecutions, yet the average person excuses their behavior away with “it will never happen to me” and the like, that is until it does happen.

  • Has there been any confirmation on why he resigned? Was it really the supposed travel denial or was that just more anti-Dunleavy administration kabuki theater? Maybe the guy is just tired after 20+ years of being a public defender. God knows I would be….

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