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Judge dismisses lawsuit against state of Alaska over coronavirus aid plan

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: August 7, 2020
  • Published August 7, 2020

With a brief order on Thursday, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg dismissed a 3-month-old lawsuit that forced the Alaska Legislature to briefly reconvene during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, brought by Juneau resident Eric Forrer, alleged that the method used to approve Alaska’s coronavirus aid plan was unconstitutional. The state has received nearly $1.5 billion from the federal government, including $1.2 billion that Congress allows the state to spend almost at will.

Forrer filed the lawsuit when a legislative panel, rather than the full Alaska Legislature, approved an aid plan authored by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Under the plan, about half of the discretionary aid will be distributed to cities and boroughs, a quarter will be reserved for health-care needs, and the remaining quarter will be distributed in grants to small businesses. Smaller amounts have gone to housing assistance and nonprofit support.

With the lawsuit threatening to disrupt aid distribution, the full Legislature reconvened and voted in favor of the plan in May.

After hearing arguments in court, Pallenberg ruled from the bench on Thursday in favor of the state, which sought to dismiss the lawsuit. A written decision will follow later.

Pallenberg had already declined to pause aid distributions while the lawsuit progressed.

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