By ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
Here is some bad news for elected office-holders in Alaska who thought they could be recalled only for serious infractions. It turns out, they can be recalled on simply a whim, or a policy disagreement, a philosophical difference or, well, just because. Alaska now has “standardless” recalls.
Most of the Alaska Supreme Court says so.
The court upheld a Superior Court ruling that allowed the Recall Dunleavy initiative to go forward because its allegations against Gov. Mike Dunleavy – as flimsy as they were – jibed with Alaska statutes.
But one justice, now-retired Justice Craig Stowers dissented from the ridiculous decision. He said the court’s action was an overreach and a breach of the Alaska Constitution.
“I urge every legislator to carefully consider the court’s opinion today. The opinion opens the door to standardless recall petitions,” he wrote. “The court repeatedly says that Alaska courts are to apply the ‘prima facie’ standard to recall petition allegations and, accepting the allegations as true, if any logical connection can be made between an allegation and a statutory ground for recall, the petition must be found to be legally sufficient.
“I urge the legislature to, at the least, provide specific statutory definitions for the recall grounds to decrease the opportunity for judicial involvement in what is best done by the legislature — that is, legislating. This is not a partisan issue. The greatly expanded access to recall created by the court’s decision today can and will be used not to actually seek to recall an elected official for cause, but instead to seek to recall an elected official because of disagreements over policy. And in Alaska, disagreement over policy or political philosophy is not a proper subject for recall.”
The Division of Elections had refused to certify the recall application, saying its four allegations against Gov. Mike Dunleavy were not legally or factually sufficient for recall.
The Recall Dunleavy Committee went to the Alaska Superior Court, which sided with the recall initiative backers. The state appealed, but lost, and the high court offered a summary judgment while at the same time saying it would explain later how the committee’s recall application satisfied the legal requirements. What Alaskans got instead was judicial poppycock.
In response to the court’s “explanation,” Dunleavy said:
“The Alaska Supreme Court today issued an opinion that creates a standardless recall process, subjecting elected officials at every level, and across the political spectrum, to baseless, expensive, and distracting recall elections by their political opponents. The court has made it clear that even plainly false allegations of wrongdoing can trigger this process, undermining our election process, and prevents our elected officials from focusing on the many serious issues facing Alaskans.”
What we now have is recall effort targeting Dunleavy, financed by shadowy, anonymous figures and allowed to go forward on laughably flimsy grounds. What we will have in the future, courtesy of the state high court’s innate wisdom, is more of the same if the Legislature does not act.
Our deepest respects to Justice Stowers, a guy who clearly has read and understands the Alaska Constitution, for his clear and reasoned view of the mess.