Listicle: Lawsuits piling up against Dunleavy Administration - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019
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Listicle: Lawsuits piling up against Dunleavy Administration

Does it seem like everyone is suing the Dunleavy Administration? A growing number of legislative and budgetary lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks and months, most of them against the Dunleavy Administration, but one lawsuit is actually on behalf of the governor’s actions. It’s hard to keep track, so we made a list:

  1. Venue of Special Session II-Juneau: Al Vezey, through his attorney Bill Satterberg, has sued the presiding officers of the House and Senate for not convening the second Special Session in Wasilla, as ordered by the governor. Gov. Michael Dunleavy called the session for July 8 in Wasilla, but Sen. President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon refused the call and gaveled in in Juneau. The governor on July 17 relented and called the Special Session to Juneau. The legal question is whether Dunleavy has the right to name the venue for a special session that he calls. The Attorney General says the governor has that right, by Alaska Statute. Giessel and Edgmon say they have the right to change it if they want.
  2. Venue of Special Session II-Wasilla: Anchorage attorneys Kevin McCoy and Mary Geddes have sued the governor for calling the special session in Wasilla. They say the session should have been called to Juneau.
  3. Education funding: The Legislative majorities are suing the Dunleavy Administration because he withheld $20 million in what he says are illegally appropriated funds. The legal question is: Does the Legislature have the power to appropriate years into the future if it hasn’t actually set the money aside? In other words, appropriate money it doesn’t have and bind future legislatures and governors. The Attorney General says no and that the Constitution spells out annual funding processes.
  4. Abortion and the courts: The ACLU is suing the governor for cutting the administrative overhead of the Alaska Supreme Court. In Dunleavy’s explanation for the cuts, he said if the courts insisted that the State pay for elective abortions, then the money will need to come from the court’s own budget, because the Legislature and the governor are against public funding of elective abortions. The ACLU says this is a breach of the separate branches of government and was retaliatory.
  5. Medicaid reimbursement cuts: The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association sued Dunleavy Administration over cuts made to Medicaid reimbursements. The cuts were made via emergency regulations. The lawsuit was filed by former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Scott Kendall, who was chief of Staff to Gov. Bill Walker. They filed it on behalf of ASHNA.
  6. Education funding: The Coalition for Education Equity is suing the Dunleavy Administration for being slow to release funds for the 2019 fiscal year. These funds were eventually released by the Administration, but the lawsuit remains open.
  7. All the cuts: Attorney Jahna Lindemuth has told reporters that she is considering suing the Dunleavy Administration over a wide range of the budget cuts. Lindemuth is on record saying the cuts are unconstitutional, citing Article 7 of the Alaska Constitution, establishing the University of Alaska and specifying that the Legislature shall provide for the promotion as well as the protection of public health. Lindemuth may have an ethical problem suing her former client, the State of Alaska.
  8. Privatization of Alaska Psychiatric Institute: The Alaska State Employees Association is suing the Dunleavy Administration for privatizing API. The union says that privatizing the institution violates the Alaska Constitution, Alaska Statutes, and the group’s collective bargaining agreement.
  9. Wrongful termination: The ACLU in January filed lawsuits on behalf of former state attorney Libby Bakalar, Anthony Blanford, and John Bellville. All three were released by the Dunleavy Administration. They say they were fired for refusing to pledge political support for the governor’s agenda. Belleville and Blanford were psychiatrists at Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Bakalar worked in the Department of Law.
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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

  • Some of these fights are definitely worth having. The left got a taste for this when they hounded Palin out in the same manner. It’s going to be in their playbook until it is soundly squashed.

    .

    I don’t think the meaningful ones have even been filed yet. This a marathon and not a sprint and looking at the track record I don’t think Dunleavy is a marathoner.

  • This is the very definition of Lawfare by the political left on the rest of us. An alternate would be kakistocracy – the Rule of Judges. Note that none of this has anything to do with what the People of Alaska who put this governor into office actually want. Cheers –

  • Looks like elections are no longer relevant, and the mob now controls our state. I see someone called them neo907 Bolsheviks

  • The real problem for the Dunleavy Administration is securing adequate representation for its position. In less contentious times than these I never could bring myself to completely trust the Department of Law. I’ve had meritorious cases sandbagged by Law to get the hearing or, especially, the appeal to the Supreme Court into gubernatorial election time during which the prosecution of the case simply went on the auction block. Even a skillful, experienced advocate has trouble telling if another advocate just did something differently from the way you’d do it, did something dumb, or just threw the case.

    During the times when we had administrations that hadn’t been supported by the unions and the left, I always advised my principals that they could expect to lose at the trial court level. Particularly the Medicaid reimbursement case is big bucks and high stakes. That looks like it is really an administrative process case and it is easy for courts to make mischief with these as we recently saw with the “citizenship” case before the USSC. The courts can get down in the weeds of the usually vague and often arcane statutory language and make it say what they want it to say. I can see that one getting strung out into the gubernatorial election year and becoming trade goods.

    The left knows how to play this game; they’ll shop for a judge and venue and in my experience the ever so collegial Department of Law will let them. Then when the plaintiff gets a TRO, and injunction, or wins at the trial court the plaintiff will paper the world with “We Won” press releases that will be unquestioningly picked up by the lapdog leftist media. Then you have gut check time on the Third Floor to see if they have the stomach to press on past the bad press and continue to pursue the case.

    • Would you consider doing a piece on what brought down Teamsters 959 or at least brought them to heel in 1976.
      .
      Wondering if similar strategy might be useful today…

      • I only know the broad strokes and bright colors. They lost a lot of influence other than on the Pipeline because of Alaska’s changing and growing economy. Alaska business became more and more corporate and not just Seattle corporate that accepted being union; Seattle back then and still is in some ways owned by the left and unions. The Teamsters lost a strike against Safeway and lost most of their iron grip on the trucking industry.

        They were flying high with The Pipeline and thought it would go on forever; finish the oil line, start the gas line. They built a Taj Mahal office building and then a hospital and they had no guarantee of that big money going on longer than a couple of years. You probably know but most today don’t know that in those days what is now known as Alaska Regional Hospital was the Teamster’s Hospital. They also had their fair share of corruption and had a close relationship with the USDOL and USDOJ. Some of their people ultimately went to jail. But mostly they had a dramatic loss of membership because there was no gas line.

        By ’80 there was a fine edge of panic in most of Alaska’s organized labor because the gas line didn’t materialize. The trades and crafts unions never wanted much to do with public employees; first they were a pain in the butt and second they didn’t want them on their dispatch/out of work lists competing with their regular members. They set up various joint venture crafts councils with other unions to represent public employees. The Teamsters, Operators, and Laborers set up the Tri-Trades Council to bargain with the State after PERA became law in ’72, but the joint council only lasted a couple of years and the Laborers got all the trades and crafts employees working for the State, but they formed a separate local for them to keep them off the hiring hall lists of the construction locals. MOA and Fairbanks still have the vestigial remains of crafts councils.

        By ’80 there was enough State spending to get the State out of the post-Pipeline recession, but not much of the work was unionized heavy construction, the life blood of the trades and crafts unions. About the only thing Republicans and the traditional trades and crafts unions can get along about is both have a propensity for big expensive boondoggles that everybody hopes will never be finished. Their world became publicly funded construction and the regulated monopolies like utilities, ocean shipping, and some airline/air freight operations.

        If you knew the paid staff of the high-roller unions in the Pipeline days you wouldn’t recognize the unions a decade later. Not one of the leaders of the major trades and crafts unions that spent the Seventies flying around in the unions’ private planes and pounding desks, including the Governor’s, saying they had “the hammer” survived the ’85 oil price crash. A friend and co-worker in State labor relations in the ’90s was formerly a hotshot lawyer for the Teamsters. By the early ’90s he was very happy to have a Range 20, then around $50K/yr., job with the State.

        In the Pipeline Era the three most powerful men in Alaska were Jay Hammond, Jesse Carr of the Teamsters, and Duane Carlson, head of the State Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO’s over arching state organization. Today, you’d have to either be in labor relations or a true political junkie to even know who Carr and Carlson are, or were; I don’t know if either are still with us, doubt it. I was little more than an upstart kid back then, and now I’m a grizzled old graybeard. Anyway, I don’t offer this as objective history; it’s just the way I remember it.

        • That is really great info and fascinating. I remember very sketchy bits of what was going on.

        • Thank you.
          .
          Was here during that time, when the Anchorage Daily News exposé was published…
          .
          Reason for asking was to get a better sense of what actually happened then and how a redux might be engineered today.
          .
          Looks like the halcyon days hung on high oil prices and unrestrained state spending.
          .
          Wonder if panic over spending reductions might be driven in large part by unions’ reactions to threat of losing membership.

          • It is driven entirely by the threat of losing membership. Their sweetheart contracts with the Walker Administration gave them some protection from the Janus decision and the Dunleavy Administration seems clueless about how to deal with the obstructionism by the unions and the bureaucracy, so the unions are holding on for dear life.

            The other powerful influence is the healthcare industry, particularly the Indian Health side of it. I’ve been too far away for too long to know how so much went from IHS/PHS to Medicaid, but that is a serious driver in the resistance to spending cuts.

    • Clarkson is a terrific litigator at least.

  • It doesn’t mean a thing. Any Yahoo can file a lawsuit. Even Bryce is getting sued.

  • Mob Rule has taken over the State of Alaska, started by the 38. Was sad when we heard that Governor Dunleavy gave in to the Juneau group but hoping that he has a plan. We elected him for the programs that he has been trying to carry through on. As for the voters in this family, Dunleavy still has our support but we need to make sure that the next election cleans out the 38 legislators that are now doing what they can to bring down our state.
    He promised the demise of #91, and so it went. Now we need a full PFD.

  • Just like what the Dems are doing to Trump, the lunatic left in Alaska is doing the same thing to Dunleavy. Leave the man alone and let him do his job.

  • Madam Editor, we might have been pranked.
    .
    This makes no sense; people who have no respect for law and order don’t file lawsuits.
    .
    Do they?

    • Here’s handicap on lawsuits:

      1. Loser. Court will determine legislature can meet where they desire based on constitutional separation of power doctrine and political question doctrine, notwithstanding statutory provision.

      2. Dippy lawsuit. Moot based on resolution in case above if not consolidated o
      In case above.

      3. Administration likely prevails.

      4. Court applies executive power constitutional provision and ignores cheap shot language inserted by Governor upholding reduction. Rule of law prevails.

      5. Tough case to handicap. Administration probably prevails. Cuts may be ill-advised but legal review doesn’t typically require dumb reductions be overturned.

      6. Plaintiffs prevail on narrow grounds. Plaintiffs get recovery of partial attorneys fees due to poor administrative technique on part of administration

      7. I’ll considered lawsuit not likely to get filed. Likely loser if pursued.

      8. Here’s where Court could whack the administration for cheap shorting court system budget. Court will rule administrators didn’t follow Administrative Procedures Act and collective bargaining agreements. Remand coming. Another example of lousy administrative technique by this administration.

      9. Soynora to these folks. If you can’t fire your lawyer or your shrink, it’s a different new world. Exempt and PX employees lose.

      • Thanks for list of your handicaps, Joe. Was number 3 just a gut feeling?

  • Bill Yankee: Nope.
    The dispute revolves around Artificial IX, section 7 of the AK Constitution.
    Applying relevant known case law to what the legislature has done probably results in finding in favor of administration position but it could go either way, especially given how nasty this administration has treated judiciary.
    Time will tell.
    Joe G.

  • Call me crazy if you want, but I sometimes feel the microcosm of what is going on here in Alaska is a test bed for implementing the socialist/marxist agenda nationwide.

    • Old Alaskan: Not really. The problem in Alaska is that we spent too much, saved too little and have too few adults in elected office to manage the bounty we have in a thoughtful manner.

      This has nothing to do with some sort of socialist/marxist agenda or some other political label and everything to do with no electing enough adults to deal with our state’s collective decision making.

      We get what we deserve, of course, in a situation like this. If we keep electing ideological goofballs from either end of the political spectrum, as we have been doing for quite a while, we will get more of the same, which isn’t all that satisfying.

      • You could be right, Joe. However that ignores the fact that our problems are almost entirely within the Republican party. And their division is almost entirely based on how much PFD money is to be spent this year.
        Alaskans were hoodwinked into thinking they could get a full PFD (as well as back payments for PFDs taken over the last three years) by electing a Republican Governor who promised exactly that. What a goofball idea. Heheh!

        • Bill Yankee: your point about Republicans being primary problem is not founded on facts. There are D’s who fully support paying PFD, and a full one per statute. And there are R’s who do not want to protect PFD by constitutional amendment.
          Holding an opinion unconnected from reality is very contemporary but not useful to solving the budget problems.
          Start paying attention before spouting rhetoric.

          • Joe, the paying of PFDs are not the only issue, but that the cutting of the budget in order to pay those full PFDs is what’s the major problem. It has shown up in the issue of where the special session was to take place, as those republicans in Wasilla are all Dunleavy supporters and all Republicans, by the way.
            It is your opinion that is unconnected from reality, here IMO.
            The only real issue here is one of crashing the budget in order to pay out those full PFDs and there is not a single Democrat on board with that.
            Your turn!

        • Bill, you’re not believable.

          • Well Dav9, you may think I’m not believable but look at that vote in today’s House on Capital Budget and you will see that it is a problem entirely within the Republican party. No problems in Senate but 8 House minority members felt the need to oppose this and they are all Republicans. Need I say more?

      • Joe Geldhof is so dreamy : )

  • Old Alaskan: Not really. The problem in Alaska is that we spent too much, saved too little and have too few adults in elected office to manage the bounty we have in a thoughtful manner.

    This has nothing to do with some sort of socialist/marxist agenda or some other political label and everything to do with no electing enough adults to deal with our state’s collective decision making.

    We get what we deserve, of course, in a situation like this. If we keep electing ideological goofballs from either end of the political spectrum, as we have been doing for quite a while, we will get more of the same, which isn’t all that satisfying.

  • I think that there needs to be a lot more firings than what is going on..Drain the Swamp and build a Bridge over it. We must take the high road and let them think they have an advantage when all 37 of the Law breakers are going to be voted out by the silent majority…

    • What you think, as well as your assumption that those 37 are Law breakers, is of course just your opinion and has nothing to do with the Law IMO.
      It is my opinion that no court is going to find them in violation of the constitution but you go on believing that Stephen.
      All of these legislators will want to be on the same page as their constituents, for sure, but I see some attempting a tightrope walk along Dunleavy’s position that they only hope agrees with their voters. We will see.

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