The Democrat-led opposition to Gov. Michael Dunleavy has not only been collecting name for a recall, they’ve also kept his administration busy in court defending itself against legal complaints. Here’s an update on the various lawsuits:
Libby Bakalar, Jan. 10: This was an assistant attorney general who was not retained by the Dunleavy Administration after Gov. Michael Dunleavy was sworn in in December. She is also a left-wing blogger who cusses a blue streak, is a relentless Twitter commenter, and was a highly visible opponent to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, she believes her First Amendment rights have been curtailed because she was released from her position.
She filed her lawsuit against the Dunleavy Administration with the help of the ACLU. Discovery is going forward, and that includes any documents between former Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock and the governor, although it has to relate in some way to admissible evidence. Both the governor and Babcock will need to respond to written questions. The Department of Law is handling this with outside counsel.
Bakalar and four of her Twitter allies have put in public records requests for any communication between the governor’s office and Must Read Alaska. Specifically, Bakalar said on Twitter, she wants to know who in the Governor’s Office ordered a “hit piece” about her (nobody gets to “order” content at Must Read Alaska, but she’s paranoid). It’s unclear if this is related to her lawsuit.
Bakalar, as a high-level attorney at the Department of Law, was an “at will” employee, subject to dismissal. Since her dismissal she has also become involved with the Recall Dunleavy effort and has announced she will defend, pro bono, any State worker who faces retribution for signing a recall petition.
Anthony Blanford, John K. Bellville, Jan. 10: This is another case where the plaintiffs feel they were wrongfully terminated. They were on the psychiatric staff at Alaska Psychiatric Institute and were not retained by the Dunleavy Administration. They refused to send in their letter of resignation as requested of most at-will employees by the Dunleavy Administration. They filed their lawsuit at the same time as Libby Bakalar, using the ACLU to represent them. It is likely his case will be combined with Bakalar’s, since they are similar. Blanford has since been hired back by the management that took over Alaska Psychiatric Institute in February and is employed at API, through Wellpath, at this time.
Coalition for Education Equity, May 1: This nonprofit advocacy group sued the governor for not releasing funds to school districts that had been appropriated by the Legislature and signed by the former governor. The lawsuit came in the middle of a deliberative process, where Gov. Dunleavy was asking the legislature to roll back some extra payments promised last year to schools. The Legislature refused and the funding was eventually released before the end of the fiscal year. The group has not dropped the lawsuit, however, although the case appears moot since the funds were released within that fiscal year. Oral arguments on motions are set for Sept. 23, 2019 at 3:30 p.m.
Legislature – Legislative Council: The Legislature, through the Legislative Council, sued the governor in July in Juneau District Court, over education funding. The question is: Does the Legislature have the authority to encumber funding in the future or is this recent habit of “forward funding” actually a violation of the Alaska Constitution. This is an amicable lawsuit because the Legislature recognizes that it needs to be constitutionally resolved. Megan Wallace, the head lawyer for Legislature, is handling the dispute from the Legislative Council’s side. The State must file its response no later than Aug. 27.
Kevin McCoy, Mary Geddes, July 15: The two liberal attorneys from Anchorage sued because the governor called a special session in Wasilla. The State’s response is due Aug. 26, but it’s likely a moot case because the governor eventually relented and moved the Special Session to Juneau.
ACLU, July 17: American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, Bonnie L. Jack, and John D. Kauffman, sued the governor over what they say are punitive cuts to the court system. Gov. Dunleavy had explained in his veto rationale that if the Supreme Court insisted that the State pay for elective abortion, then it should come out of their budget. The State filed a motion to dismiss on July 26. There has been a request by the ACLU to extend the deadline for the plaintiff’s response; it was granted by the judge. There is no factual dispute that the governor can legally exercise a line-item veto for any reason. For instance, Gov. Bill Walker vetoed half of the Permanent Fund dividend line item in 2016. In his Aug. 19 final budget decisions, Dunleavy retained those cuts to the court system.
Other lawsuits we are following:
Al Vezey, through his attorney Bill Satterberg, vs. Bryce Edgmon and Cathy Giessel: Vezey 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 convened 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. The last court action was a motion for an expedited consideration of the Vezey/Satterberg’s motion for a declaratory judgment and preliminary injunction, filed July 17.