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Alaska Legislature

Judge rules against Gov. Dunleavy in legislators’ lawsuit over appointees

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: February 18
  • Published February 18

JUNEAU — Ninety-four executive branch officials appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy served illegally between Dec. 16 and Jan. 19, a Juneau Superior Court judge ruled Thursday, siding with arguments made by attorneys representing the Alaska Legislature.

The decision by Judge Philip Pallenberg may invalidate all decisions made by those officials during the affected period, possibly affecting a swath of actions including liquor licenses and oil drilling permits.

“That’s what the lawsuit implied. I would suspect that’s what the lawsuit would mean,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage.

The effects could be extensive: Alaska’s revenue commissioner and its top public defender are among the appointees.

The lawsuit was authorized by the Legislative Council, a joint committee of the Alaska Legislature, and staff for Senate Rules Chairman Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said Thursday afternoon that they were still awaiting an analysis from the Legislature’s top attorney.

The governor’s office deferred comment to the Alaska Department of Law, which responded to questions with a written statement.

“The Department of Law is disappointed in the Superior Court order granting plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment in regards to the governor’s appointments,” said assistant attorney general Maria Bahr, a spokeswoman for the department. “We are reviewing the order and awaiting final declaratory judgment to determine future options, including appealing the court’s decision.”

The Legislature had sued Dunleavy in December after the governor allowed dozens of board and commission appointees to continue serving in their roles after a deadline set by the Legislature. The administration argued that the Legislature’s deadline was unconstitutional.

Pallenberg had previously issued a preliminary decision in favor of the governor that allowed the appointees to remain on the job while legal arguments proceeded.

He has ordered attorneys on both sides of the case to propose a final resolution within three days.

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