The “legal dream team” at the heart of the effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy believe they have an emergency on their hands, and they’re asking the Alaska Supreme Court to grant them an emergency hearing.
The emergency? A lower court judge ruled against the Recall Dunleavy Committee — but only in part.
Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth said the group can continue with its recall effort, but will not be allowed to collect signatures on a petition until the recall challenges make their way through the Supreme Court.
Former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and former Chief of Staff Scott Kendall are the lead lawyers for the Recall Dunleavy Committee. They were also lead dogs in the Walker Administration, essentially running the state until they became unelected along with Walker in 2018.
Theirs is a campaign of political revenge, and they have the backing of deep pockets who objected to the governor’s budget cuts last year. They also have their own legal reputations on the line; this, after all, is the former attorney general throwing her weight around to avenge the 2018 election. Losing would not be a good look.
The recallers, including Lindemuth and Kendall, started their effort to unseat Dunleavy almost immediately after he was sworn in, and they began compiling their list of “offenses” that they could take to the public for a do-over vote. Their efforts are eerily similar to the calls for impeachment of President Trump, which began as soon as he took office.
Lindemuth and Kendall knew their cases would end up in court, and they might have expected that Dunleavy would challenge them all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Stand Tall With Mike group is doing just that. But Lindemuth and Kendall are fighting the clock now — they do not want this governor’s recall to be a question on the General Election ballot, when Republicans come out in force to vote. Therefore, they are asserting they have an emergency.
Judge Aarseth last month called it inappropriate for the Division of Elections to issue petition booklets before the Alaska Supreme Court determines if any of the actual “charges” are legal grounds for a recall. Aarseth himself already threw out one of the charges.
The grounds for recall that the group has remaining include:
- The governor made partisan statements. This relates to a media campaign in which he asked people to contact their lawmakers and ask them to vote for a full Permanent Fund dividend. Using this logic, no politician may make partisan political statements.
- The governor was late appointing a judge. In fact, Dunleavy met the constitutional deadline for appointing the judge and there was never a vacancy.
- The governor vetoed administrative funds for the court system. The lawyers are asserting that the governor doesn’t have a constitutional right to veto funds unless they agree with his reason.
- The governor made a mistake on a veto in 2019. The mistake, a scrivener’s error, was corrected when discovered and no harm was done.
Recall Dunleavy wants its hearing this month in the Supreme Court; it wants the court to overturn the lower court ruling so it can get its hands on those petition booklets. Recall Dunleavy is asking for oral arguments on the merits of the case to be held Feb. 19-21. If it can’t get the hearing it wants, then it’s asking the court to allow the signature-gathering phase to begin anyway.
“The citizens seeking recall are irreparably harmed by every additional day of delay,” the lawyers argued in their request for an emergency hearing.
In a scrivener’s error of her own, lawyer Lindemuth has asked the court for a hearing schedule to be set by no later than Tuesday, Feb. 5.
It’s unclear if Lindemuth, in her haste, meant Tuesday, Feb. 4, or Wednesday, Feb. 5. But this is the kind of error for which Lindemuth and Kendall believe a governor can be recalled.
The Stand Tall With Mike group will need to file its response to the court no later than Feb. 7.
The group didn’t file its application for petition booklets until Sept. 5, 2019. It could have filed months earlier because it had the requisite signatures weeks prior to Sept. 5, but now it wants the court to declare an emergency to ramrod the matter through the courts.