Chief Justice to recall attorneys: ‘Move to disqualify me, if you dare’


Chief Justice Joel Bolger has told the lawyers in the Recall Dunleavy case that if they think he should recuse himself from the matter, they should move for him to be disqualified.

But if they don’t move to do so, he’ll consider himself qualified to judge the case coming before him and the other Supreme Court judges on March 25, because he doesn’t think his impartiality is compromised.

In a letter to the counsel on each side of State vs. Recall Dunleavy, the court has said that either side could file a motion to disqualify Chief Justice Joel Bolger by Feb. 26.

And yet, there’s another sticky problem: The only lawyer left defending the State against the recall is Margaret Paton-Walsh, who has applied to become a Supreme Court appointee.

Her candidacy for the Supreme Court will have to go through Judge Bolger, who happens to also be the head of the Alaska Judicial Council.

Paton-Walsh is the only lawyer who would ask the Chief Justice to disqualify himself, and would have to do so at her own career peril.

The other lawyers — Jahna Lindemuth, Jeff Feldman, and Susan Orlansky — are working on behalf of the Recall Dunleavy Committee, and Bolger has already signaled that he’s “their guy.”

The legal team that joined the case to fight for the governor has withdrawn, after it became apparent the court was biased.

In the letter signed by Meredith Montgomery, clerk of the appeals court, the court has attached a volume of written material that shows Bolger has spoken out — sometimes directly and sometimes opaquely — against the governor’s policies, and that he met with the governor regarding a matter that is now at the heart of the recall campaign that he will be deciding: The two met last year to discuss the process for appointing judges.

[Read: Refuse to recuse? Chief Justice Bolger was material witness at heart of recall case]

Bolger has, in his letter through Clerk Montgomery, flipped the meaning of Canon 3E of the Code of Judicial Conduct, according to legal observers.

That section reads, “a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which a judges impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

In other words, it’s the judge’s duty to recuse himself or herself. He “shall,” if there’s a reasonable question.

But Bolger is playing chicken in a relationship with a state attorney, because he knows he has her at a serious disadvantage, as though to say, “Move to disqualify me if you dare, Ms. Paton-Walsh.”

The letter from the court to the attorneys contains background material, including remarks Bolger has made of a political nature regarding the governor over the past year. Check out the file below:


  1. The left leaning legal cabal that currently runs the system that puts leftist judges on the bench, apparently for life, must be changed to a voter-based system. Currently it is my understanding that the lawyers lobby group puts up nominees and the lawyers vote on who gets nominated and elevated to the Court. We, the People only get to vote on their retention. My Uncle, Justice John Dimond would be appalled at the politics of the current occupant of the office. Judge, Recuse yourself!

  2. I feel as if I should know this, but, can AK SC Justices be recalled or impeached? If yes, then an immediate recall of Chief Justice Bolger beeds to be started. Of course, a fair and impartial recall…

  3. It’s worse than being a whistleblower with ZERO protection. Margaret Paton-Walsh is the person to blow the whistle. She knows it. But she knows that Bolger is standing with the hammer, not gavel, ready to drop on her head when she blows the whistle. No protection and practically guarantee no career after she does the right thing. Ratting out your “boss” is tough. I wish Margaret the best in her decision.

  4. The canon of Judicial Conduct regarding impartiality must be triggered by Paton-Walsh in order to get Bolger to do the ethical thing. It appears he won’t do it himself. Paton-Walsh must move to disqualify Bolger based on his biased statements concerning Dunleavy. Justice Bolger appears to have some personal problems with his own ethics. This should also trigger a barrage of grievances filed with the AK Bar Association, moving for an investigation into Bolger’s alleged judicial misconduct. Alaskans would like to hold their top judicial officers in high esteem. Here, Bolger is playing politics out in the open. His beligerancy needs to be addressed by the Bar and in the press. He was not elected. He was appointed. But he can be taken down too, in the Court of Public Opinion, which has considerable weight.

  5. Judge Bolger forgot to add something to his attachment documents in that letter. He forgot to attach the application that the lead attorney for the Division of Elections has in front of him. She is the only one of the lawyers who would ask him to recuse himself but he holds her fate in his hands on her application to be a Supreme Court judge. He can’t see the problem there?

    This guy is clueless. The questions have already been raised, and I’ve just given him another reason — Margaret Paton-Walsh should not have to ask him to do the right thing. If he won’t, then the Division of Elections should withdraw the case altogether. The court has such an expedited schedule on this that it’s too late to bring in a new attorney to replace Paton-Walsh. It would put the Division of Elections at too much of a disadvantage. I’m calling foul on this judge.

    • Bolger is never going to support Paton-Walsh for an appointment to the high bench anyway. Paton-Walsh needs to move to disqualify Bolger. Bolger is too unethical to do the right thing. Agree with Marla. Bar complaints against Bolger. Hundreds of them.

  6. First a lawless legislature – now this.
    Is there any reason for any “ordinary” Alaskan to obey any law when our “betters” deem that unnecessary – for themselves?

    • How did Bolger become the Chief Justice? He looks like a meanie. I was hoping that Justice Carney would become the Chief Justice…….more ethical. Attorney Paton-Walsh can become the hero in this entire judicial fiasco. Thanks for reporting on this, Suzanne.

  7. One of the positives in the current political wars has been the decision of the left to drop their masks and show us what they are and have already been. Now that they are unmasked, proving what we’ve suspected for all these years, we can get on the road to doing something about them.

    In the case of judges, as far as I can tell, there is no provision in state law or under the constitution to recall them. Perhaps there ought to be. Now that we can recall a governor at the drop of a hat, perhaps those of us on the right need to start recalling legislators who organize with democrats or Assembly members simply on general principles. I’d add judges to that mix and go for it. Cheers –

    • You think getting almost 50k signatures for recall is “the drop of a hat?”
      What a hoot. Keep em coming.

      • O ye of little imagination. If we are writing a new constitutional amendment to allow recall of sitting judges, we can write the rules.

        Today, the constitution requires signatures gathered to equal 10% of everyone who voted in the last election for that particular office (statewide, district, local).

        In 2018, 15 judges were up for retention. Total votes for them varied from roughly 26,000 – 170,000. 10% of 170,000 is 17,000, a certainly doable number. To make it more precise, require the number of signatures collected to be 10% of whatever that particular judge got on his or her retention election. If that number does not exist, require 10% of the last judge in that particular seat.

        The judges aren’t the only ones who can make it up as they go. And when they are viewed as lawless, some of the rest of us will learn that lesson and return the favor. Cheers –

        • Your premise is based on an “if” and good luck with that. Go ahead and attempt to write the rules but remember it’s only an attempt.
          Like I said getting a large number of signatures to recall is nothing like “the drop of a hat.” And you’ve not made an argument that it is.
          Tough noogies!

  8. Recall me and wait for my fury to say NO. This Judge needs to be gone he does not care about the rule of Law only his rules. There will come a time when the only way to remove these individuals that berate the Law is by Revolution.

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

    Thomas Jefferson

  9. In my time doing legal work, I have seen judges recuse themselves for less over and over again. For decades, I’ve talked about how unethical our court system is. Don’t get me wrong. I know some good and well-qualified judges. But this is a travesty. Who do we report a state supreme court judge to? That goes beyond my knowledge.

  10. This judge has forgotten that he serves at the pleasure of We, the People as a public servant.

    Judge Bolger, recuse yourself!

    And knock off this banana republic BS. We, your employers, do not appreciate it.

  11. Apparently, Bolger cares little about the court of opinion. Well, he cares for only one opinion.
    What action can be taken as citizens? I don’t count on mainstream press to expose this.

  12. We are now reading the lesson plans for “Red China 101”. If you don’t like these Lesson Plans, find a way to destroy them A.S.A.P. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  13. This certainly is turning into a Gordian Knot with perhaps the Sword of Damocles overhead. The parties should sit down together and reason this matter out or the more combative side of politics will set the rules henceforth. That is a path of taking a scorched earth and damaging result leaving a lot of bitterness on the “field.”

  14. I’m not weighing in on whether recusal is appropriate. But I am disappointed with the title of this article. “If you dare “ is NOT what the Chief Justice said. This totally distorts the article.

    • Hyperbole drives the essence of the story home. The mainstream media uses this kind of approach all the time, especially in the age of Trump. Suzanne makes her point……and she knows how to read the tea leaves better than most.

      • The point was made that Suzanne has distorted the actual message this SC justice made-you think it’s reading the tea leaves but it’s something else. And it’s not even hyperbole but clearly a made-up version of what occurred.
        If anyone thinks there will be some white-horse riding conservative coming to the rescue here to call Bolger out on a bias, it is my opinion they are mistaken. And that’s because there is no bias to call out.

  15. It seems to me if the courts want to be taken as fair and impartial, not given to pressure from political sources then they should keep their biased traps shut.

  16. Our state justice system is broken and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The built in and institutional bias to the liberal judges electing and appointing their replacements is criminal.

  17. Google “Alaska state of corruption” a read about how the AK court system raked Alaska big game guide David Haig over the coals.

  18. Let’s reverse everything. Ssy that Bolger likes the Republicans and clearly favors Dunleavy and the Stand Tall With Mike organization. Do you think the Democrats and the mainstream media would tolerate and sit still? Think again. They would be operating like a stirred-up hornet’s nest. Bolger needs to recuse. Now! So glad we have Suzanne and MRAK to keep us informed.

  19. From the most corrupt legislature in the country, to now the most corrupt judiciary. The left and the establishment do not like to lose one ounce of power, for in their minds, they are entitled to it. You cannot reason with them and they do not compromise. THIS is who they are and what they do.

  20. One could petition Alaska’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, in accordance with Alaska Statute AS 22.30.070 (c) (2), to determine whether reprimand, suspension, or removal of Chief Justice Bolger is appropriate for: ” willful misconduct in the office, willful and persistent failure to perform duties,… conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, or conduct that brings the judicial office into disrepute.
    One could ask whether Chief Justice Bolger’s actions transformed Alaska’s Judiciary from enforcer of laws into a corrupt system of favors, partisanship and political ideology where justice can be bought and sold, and (b) whether Bolger illegally used his judicial authority and discretion to “fix” litigation outcomes, manipulating and circumventing the rule of law.
    From Alaska’s “Code of Judicial Conduct”:
    Canon 3, page 10: “A judge shall not seek or accept a waiver of disqualification when the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a lawyer, when, for any other reason, the judge believes that he or she cannot be fair and impartial…”
    Canon 5, page 17: “(a judge may not) make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate to a particular view or decision with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court…”
    Canon 5, page 20: “A judge shall not engage in any political activity except (i) as authorized under any other Section of this Code, on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice…”
    Canon 5, page 23: “Political activity” means, among other things:
    viii. soliciting votes in… support of or in opposition to an incumbent’s recall from such an office, or in support of or in opposition to a ballot proposition;
    ix. publicly endorsing or opposing… a ballot proposition, whether in a speech, a published letter, a political advertisement or broadcast, campaign literature, or any similar material…”
    Does evidence prove Chief Justice Bolger has such a personal bias against Governor Dunleavy that Bolger would engage in political activity prohibited by the “Code of Judicial Conduct” to: (a) prevent Dunleavy from doing his job, and (b) disenfranchise Dunleavy’s constituents by removing Dunleavy from his job?
    If so, should Bolger be removed as Chief Justice?
    Will our elected “representatives” or our attorney general submit such a petition on our behalf?
    It could happen…

  21. For a fantastic read on this entire issue, look at Bob Bird’s article in FDN, February 21, 2020, page A4.

  22. This judge is politically motivated and has an obvious dislike for Dunleavy and should immediately recuse himself from the case. Should the ruling go against Dunleavy, I would think that the judge’s refusal to recuse himself (due to his obvious bias against Dunleavy) could be used by the Dunleavy legal team to appeal it to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Alaska Supreme Court is not the final say when it comes to legal cases/precedent.

  23. Anne,
    I believe the only chance to appeal a ruling by our state supreme court is to have the National supreme court pick up the case and I doubt there is any precedent of them “chiming in” on a state recall effort.

  24. Anyone remember what Joe McCarthy said 70 years ago about Socialist/Communist overthrowing our country. Most people did not belief it back then. Once again think about what McCarthy said back then as you read the news today. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

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