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Alaska judge says state must pay Dunleavy recall group more than $190,000

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: October 10, 2020
  • Published October 9, 2020

Former Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth argues on behalf of the Recall Dunleavy campaign on Jan. 10, 2020 in Alaska Superior Court. A state judge has ruled that Alaska must pay more than $190,000 in legal costs related to the lawsuit. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

The state of Alaska must pay more than $190,000 to the group seeking the recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, an Anchorage Superior Court judge has ordered.

The nine-page order, published Thursday, was issued in accordance with a state law that requires the losing side to pay the legal costs of the winning side in matters of constitutional law.

The order was first reported by Alaska Public Media.

The state is still reviewing the order and has no comment at this time, Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr said when asked whether the state intends to appeal.

In May, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that said the Alaska Division of Elections had improperly rejected a petition seeking Dunleavy’s removal. Only one of several reasons for the recall effort failed to meet the legal standard.

Thursday’s order, by Judge Herman Walker, says the state must pay $190,006.49 — a figure that includes research and work performed by the attorneys representing the recall, but not the costs related to the item discarded in the lawsuit.

“The fees in this litigation are reasonable,” Walker wrote. “The issues before the court are complex and address constitutional issues that are a first impression to this state.”

Alaska’s “loser pays” rule is uncommon in the United States but has been present in some form since at least 1947. The current law was written in 1962 and modified in 2003 to remove a section that required the state to pay in some public-interest cases that it won.

That modification was challenged, but in 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld its legality. After that decision, then-Speaker of the House John Harris, R-Valdez, wrote, “You lose, you pay. Isn’t that the way it should be?”