On Tuesday afternoon, in Courtroom 30A of the Boney Courthouse in Anchorage, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Dunleavy Administration will cross swords over whether a governor has a right to cut the Alaska Supreme Court’s budget.
And at stake is whether judges can decide if a governor’s reasoning for a budget cut to their branch of government is legitimate.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy cut some $335,000 from the Alaska Supreme Court budget’s administrative budget, as part of his efforts to reduce state spending. That is less than half of one percent of the court’s budget.
In his budget veto explanation, Dunleavy said that the legislative and executive branch both oppose the State of Alaska paying for elective abortions with Medicaid funds.
“…the only branch of government that insists on state-funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court. The annual cost of elective abortions is reflected by this reduction,” the Dunleavy budget writers wrote in the explanation for the cuts.
The problem at hand is that the Alaska Supreme Court, even as late as February, has insisted on the State paying for non-medically necessary abortions.
The American Civil Liberties Union says these abortions are constitutionally mandated, and Joshua Decker, the executive director of the ACLU-Alaska, will make that case in court on Wednesday.
The Dunleavy Administration is likely to say it has the authority to veto funds, and the Legislature has the authority to override those vetoes — something that didn’t happen. The appropriation function is not in the jurisdiction of the courts.
Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson, a registered nonpartisan, will hear the case; she was a district court judge before becoming a Superior Court judge under Gov. Bill Walker. In 2016, she was retained by 61.2 percent of voters and doesn’t come up for retention until 2022.
Planned Parenthood put out the call today to supporters of abortion to head for the courthouse with signs to bring the court of public opinion to bear on the matter during the hearing. The oral arguments start at 3 pm, with Planned Parenthood planning to show up at 2 pm.