BUT WILL JUSTICE WINFREE DO THE SAME?
After two weeks of pressure, Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger has recused himself from hearing the arguments on the merits of the recall of the governor.
Although Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, whose department is defending the Division of Elections, did not ask for recusal, others had, including the vice chair of the Alaska Republican Party, who penned an op-ed asking for Bolger to recuse.
Earlier, Bolger had refused to do remove himself from the case, and has ruled on decisions leading up to the March 25 oral arguments between the Division of Elections and Recall Dunleavy Committee.
In Alaska, “a judge has as great an obligation not to disqualify himself, when there is no occasion to do so, as he has to [disqualify himself] in the presence of valid reasons,” Bolger wrote.
“In the meantime, the State of Alaska has filed its excerpts of the lower court record. So I now have the opportunity to make a ruling on this potential disqualification with a better understanding of this record. It is clear to me that the issue raised in this case — the adequacy of the grounds for recall of a sitting governor — mandates serious consideration of any potential disqualifying circumstances to maintain the public’s faith and confidence in the justice system.
“As stated previously, I do not have any personal bias or prejudice concerning the parties or attorneys involved in this case,” he wrote.
“However, I have special public responsibilities as the administrative head of the Alaska Court System and as the chairman ex-officio of the Alaska Judicial Council.
“In those capacities, I have made public statements that could suggest a strong disagreement with the governor’s conduct on some very fundamental issues affecting the judicial branch, conduct that forms part of the basis for the recall petition under consideration.
“In other words, this is a case where a reasonable person might question whether my judgment is affected by my overriding public responsibilities to the justice system.
“I therefore RECUSE myself from further proceedings in this case. “
The practical result from his recusal is that a judge from the Superior Court will likely be asked to sit in on this case.
Another justice who has a likely conflict of interest is Justice Daniel Winfree, whose wife is highly paid University of Alaska employee. The university has seen its budget cut by $50 million over this and the previous fiscal year, cuts made by the Dunleavy Administration that could effect the Winfree household’s personal finances.