Alaska Legislature

Dispute between state Legislature and Dunleavy over governor’s appointees heads to Alaska Supreme Court

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy is asking the Alaska Supreme Court to decide a dispute between the executive branch and the Alaska Legislature over his power to appoint state officials.

This month, a Juneau Superior Court judge ruled that 94 people appointed by Dunleavy — including the state’s revenue commissioner and its top public defender — were legally rejected by the Alaska Legislature because lawmakers failed to meet in joint session last year to confirm their appointments.

That failure to meet means those officials lacked legal authority between Dec. 15 and Jan. 19, when Dunleavy reappointed them as the new legislative session began.

“It is possible that this ruling will have implications for the ability of third parties to challenge the actions of those appointees, but the court expresses no opinion on this question,” Judge Philip Pallenberg wrote.

The administration is now asking the Alaska Supreme Court to take a look at the issue, saying in court filings that it fears what might happen if the Legislature again fails to vote on the governor’s nominees. It has requested an emergency hearing and a ruling no later than April 12, ahead of the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment date.

Attorneys representing the Legislature are opposing that emergency deadline, in part because another lawsuit between the Legislature and governor will be argued in front of the Alaska Supreme Court in March. That case will determine how the governor’s veto power applies to state programs funded multiple years in advance.