Tick tock: AK Supreme Court to rule on recall ballot item - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Tick tock: AK Supreme Court to rule on recall ballot item

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It’s been nine days since briefs and responses requested by the Alaska Supreme Court were duly filed in the case that will decide whether the Recall Dunleavy Committee has sufficient grounds to have citizens go through a recall election. A decision will likely come this week.

The Supreme Court justices had asked both the Department of Law and Recall Dunleavy to further explain their positions on whether a governor’s veto is a violation of the “separation of powers.” In the Supreme Court’s hearing of the matter on March 25, it was clear that the justices questioned this particular grounds for recall, because the separation of powers is a principle, rather than a law. Since it is a key argument of the Recall Dunleavy Committee’s recall petition, the justices have asked each side to argue their positions in additional briefs.

The third ground for recall, which is in question is: “Governor Dunleavy violated separation-of-powers by improperly using the line- item veto to attack the judiciary and the rule of law.” 

The justices asked both sides to address the the historical basis of state constitutional provisions, and particularly the Alaska Constitution, Article II, section 15, regarding a governor’s discretionary authority to veto items in appropriation bills, as well as a requirement that the governor provide a statement of his or her reasoning for vetoing items; the constitutional limits, if any, that exist on a governor’s exercise of the authority to veto appropriations; and the legal framework the justices should use for determining whether the third ground for recall is “legally sufficient” as required by case law.

“How should the governor’s statement of his objections inform the analysis? Can the statement of objections itself demonstrate an “’improper’ use of the governor’s veto authority sufficient to support recall? Is an ‘improper’ use of the governor’s veto authority a violation of the separation of powers doctrine? As used in the recall petition, is ‘separation of powers’ a law — which the governor either violated or did not violate — or is it shorthand for something else? How should voters interpret the phrases ‘separation of powers’ and ‘the rule of law”’?

In its response, the Recall Dunleavy Committee admitted there is little, if any, case law to support their claim.

The legal briefs and responses are now on file with the high court. Among them are these, which readers may explore and analyze:


Meanwhile, the Recall Dunleavy Committee has not been able to make adequate progress on its signature gathering on the recall petition itself, and appears stuck at 30,200 signatures since March 23. The group needs 71,252 valid signatures to force an election do-over, which would put Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer in charge of the state.

The Supreme Court had allowed the group to proceed with signature gathering even though the court had not heard the case or decided its merits, and it now appears that at least one of the items on the petition may be thrown out. That could open up the petition to a lawsuit, because the question on the ballot would be substantially different from what was on the petition that people signed.

The Recall Committee plowed forward this week with a letter from three doctors who stated that cuts to the Health and Social Services budget of the state had left the state unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and that the cuts led to a rise in cases.

The letter, signed by an abortion doctor, a Native medical center doctor, and an internist, allege that Gov. Dunleavy is responsible for the continuing rise of COVID-19 castes in Alaska.

“You don’t need to be a medical professional to understand that COVID-19 has a firm foothold in Alaska and our hospitals and clinics are now on the front lines. As physicians bracing for this emerging crisis, we write to remind you that Governor Dunleavy’s fiscal policies have been no friend to healthcare in our state. With our recklessly under-funded healthcare system facing a global pandemic, it has never been more important to have a leader with the well-being of all Alaskans in mind.”

Alaska, in actuality, has the fewest number of cases of COVID-19 in the nation.

[See the state-by-state comparison at Statista.com]


The American Civil Liberties Union tried to muscle its way into this court proceeding this month, saying that it wanted to file an amicus brief on behalf of the Recall Dunleavy Committee’s position.

The ACLU said that because it has a separate pending lawsuit in Superior Court over the legality of the governor’s vetoes, it has an interest in the outcome of the Recall Dunleavy case. That ACLU request was denied by the Supreme Court.

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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

  • The governor has acquitted himself well in this crisis, although some more clarification on standards, flexibility on PPE, and some liability protection would greatly help businesses get going quicker. All things considered, with the situation and the information at hand I think you would be hard pressed to say he made irresponsible calls. I think that will make, an already illegal and totally partisan effort (the recall) that much harder to perpetrate.

  • Oh, you will find idiots that make all sorts of hair-brain claims about this Governor. Just wait, they will pop up on here shortly. Good on virus stuff, soft on house majority crap.

  • Governor Dunleavy is only ‘guilty’ of doing his job and what he said he would do. For the supremes to even hear the “impeachment” farce should be grounds for removing those “justices” themselves, not the Governor. Several “justices” have openly declared personal bias, using their position as a political platform against Governor Dunleavy’s decisions to pare unnecessary and unjust ‘budget’ expenditures in Alaska. Now those publicly politically biased “justices” are “hearing” the case to try and impeach the Governor, when they have publicly declared political bias against his decisions as Governor. The ultimate conflict of interest, both personal and professional. Something must give here and I don’t believe it’s the Governor. Where is the FBI? This is a federal and Alaskan constitutional transgression by the Alaska supremes et.al.

  • Recall https://mustreadalaska.com/under-pressure-chief-justice-recuses-from-recall-question/:
    Should be interesting to see whether Bolger and Winfree actually recuse themselves, which potentially empowers two out of three (3) remaining supreme court judges to disenfranchise Alaska voters,
    or whether Bolger and Winfree stay in the game…
    Bolger and Winfree apparently have interests which prejudice them against Governor D. If Bolger and Winfree stay in the game, if only one of the 3 remaining supreme court judges votes with Bolger-Winfree, then it seems Alaska voters will indeed be disenfranchised.
    Why strain readers’ patience with continual references to “disenfranchise”?
    In other words, three judges –very possibly mad at Governor D. for taking their money away– might well wind up helping to nullify the vote of every Alaskan who voted for Governor Dunleavy.
    For this reason alone, the emerging drama is well worth following.

    • When a judge recuses his or her self another judge takes their place, I can’t recall who took Judge Bolgers place but I think it was a former Supreme Court Justice or possibly a justice from the next level below.

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