THE ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
Some are suggesting the fix may be when it comes to the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision on the Recall Dunleavy effort now waiting to be heard by the court.
From all appearances, they may be right.
The court, without even hearing the first argument going to the heart of the case, lifted a lower court’s on-again, off-again bar on the Division of Elections printing of signature booklets, a move desperately sought by Recall Dunleavy. The group – and the source of its funding remains secret today – claimed any delay in signature-gathering would be harmful.
At the same time, the high court said it would hear arguments on the recall effort’s legality March 25 – and inexplicably said it likely would rule the same day or soon after.
That is pretty darned quick.
Add to that, this: Chief Justice Joel Bolger has refused to recuse himself from the case. Why is that important? He is, in effect, a part of the case.
Bolger chairs the Alaska Judicial Council which forwarded the names of two judge candidates to Dunleavy last year. Dunleavy balked, asking why there were so few. Bolger met with Dunleavy last March to school him on how it all works.
“I believe the governor’s office does not understand the constitutional requirements for these nominations,” Bolger told the public ahead of the meeting. “So I’m going to spend some time outlining the requirements of the constitution and the bylaws and procedures the council has adopted to follow the constitution.”
Dunleavy’s “failure” to quickly appoint one of those two judges is the basis for the first recall “charge” against the governor, although he appointed one of the two a few days later, but beyond the statutory time limit – although the sitting judge remained on the bench awaiting retirement a few weeks later.
Then, Bolger took the opportunity at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention last year to take a shot at Dunleavy, who had cut the court’s administrative budget and said he did so because of the court’s decision on using Medicaid funds for optional abortions. That accusation become Recall Dunleavy’s third “charge,” a violation of separation of powers by attacking the judiciary.
“It’s absolutely essential that judges maintain independence to make decisions based on the law and facts and not on political or personal considerations,” Bolger told the AFN.
“We are facing a great deal of political pressure. Some people want to make the judicial selection system more political. Others would like to impose political consequences for the content of judicial decisions.
“So I respectfully ask this convention to join me in resisting political influence in our courts.”
So, let’s see: Bolger was directly involved in Recall Dunleavy’s first “charge” and he made public political statements about the the third recall “charge.” And he refuses to recuse himself. That is the definition of rigged, akin to a robbery victim being on the jury of the accused robber. Add to that the court’s promised quick decision in March even before hearing the arguments and a rational person could have real questions about the court and the ethics of its chief justice.
It is as clear as the nose on your face: Bolger, appointed by former Gov. Sean Parnell, should either recuse himself or resign. The people of Alaska deserve a high court that will do everything in its power to keep its thumb off the scale.