Dunleavy’s veto of Alaska Court System funding ruled as unconstitutional

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 1:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson has ruled the veto from Gov. Mike Dunleavy of $334,700 from the Alaska Court System budget was unconstitutional.

Henderson said the veto was illegal under the doctrine of separation of powers.

“In light of the undisputed facts presented, and in spite of this Court’s faith that the Alaska judiciary remains independent and committed to its essential function of deciding cases according to the rule of law, the Court must unfortunately conclude that in vetoing funds appropriated to the State appellate courts in express retaliation against the Alaska supreme court for its legal decision-making, the Governor violated the separation of powers doctrine,” Henderson wrote.

The ruling stems from Dunleavy’s actions in June 2019 when he cut roughly $334,000 from the budget of the Alaska Supreme Court. Dunleavy’s stated reasoning behind the veto was because of decisions the courts had made to allow state funding for so-called “elective abortions.”

“This victory protects every Alaskan because it protects the integrity of the state’s judiciary. There should never be a time when the courts rule to appease a political party, or a politician — even if their title says Governor. It is the courts' responsibility to weigh the facts and law of each case, and those alone. That is what the court has done today,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff.

The court’s ruling requires the state to restore funding for the 2021 veto and void it.

“As to the veto of funds for the fiscal year 2021, the Governors' veto is void, and the prior appropriation of funds to the appellate courts for that fiscal year should be restored," Henderson wrote.

The state’s Department of Law released a statement on the ruling, also noting the state is looking at options for an appeal.

“The Governor disagrees with the decision issued today by the superior court that granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in ACLU et al. v. Dunleavy and State of Alaska," the statement reads. "Despite the Governor’s strong constitutional veto power, the superior court concluded the Governor’s vetoes of $334,000 from the court system’s FY2020 and FY2021 budgets violated the separation of powers recognized by the Alaska Constitution. The court found, however, that the vetoes did not constitute a reallocation of appropriations in violation of Article II, section 15 of the Alaska Constitution.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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