The state says Alaska's top election official -- Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell -- shouldn't be forced to testify in a federal lawsuit over how well the state conducts elections in Native languages.
In seeking an order barring Treadwell as a witness in the case, state lawyers argued this week that his testimony "would waste time" and "be ineffective for determining the truth in this case" because of his limited knowledge of the department's Native language program.
In a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason agreed to the order and said Treadwell wouldn't have to testify.
Alaska's lieutenant governor has few official duties aside from guarding the state's seal and managing the notary public program. Running the elections division is the lieutenant governor's chief executive function.
In arguing to keep Treadwell out of the courtroom, the state attorneys said "high officials" like him should generally not be required to testify because they "have greater duties and time constraints than other witnesses."
The U.S. Voting Rights Act lawsuit, brought by four Native villages and two Western Alaska elders against Treadwell and three other election officials, seeks an order requiring more effective language assistance for Natives whose first language is Yup'ik, Cup'ik and Gwich'in. The case, brought by the Anchorage office of the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit law firm, is due to be tried in U.S. District Court here next month.
In their response to the request on Treadwell, NARF attorneys said they would defer to the office and also recognized that Treadwell is busy running for the U.S. Senate, so they would not call him as a witness. They said they would use his deposition testimony, as well as that of Gov. Sean Parnell, during the trial. Parnell's deposition concerns his experiences as lieutenant governor when the state lost another Native language case.
State attorneys said Division of Elections staff would be much more effective witnesses than Treadwell. The attorney said Treadwell testified in his deposition that "he knows very little about the day-to-day details of the language assistance program and defers the administration of that program -- including requests for funding -- primarily to Director (Gail) Fenumiai."
"Because requiring the lieutenant governor's testimony would be cumulative, ineffective and a waste of time, the Court should preclude the plaintiffs from calling Lieutenant Governor Treadwell at trial," the state attorneys wrote in their motion to Gleason.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER