Alaska Supreme Court rules that Recall Dunleavy efforts are ‘legally sufficient’

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 1:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Supreme Court has affirmed a Superior Court order granting summary judgment to Recall Dunleavy.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign submitted four separate grounds for why the governor should be recalled:

  • The first was that Governor Mike Dunleavy had violated Alaska law when he refused to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations.
  • The second ground was that Dunleavy violated the state law and constitution and misused state funds to purchase electronic advertisements for partisan purposes.
  • The third ground was split into two parts.
    • First, that Dunleavy had violated the separation of powers by attacking the judiciary.
    • Secondly, again violating those powers to preclude the legislature from upholding certain responsibilities.
  • The final ground was that the governor had, “acted incompetently when he mistakenly vetoed approximately $18 million more than he told the legislature.”

The superior court had previously approved of all of the grounds, with the exception of the second part of ground three, back in January 2020.

In the opinion released on Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court wrote, “Although this paragraph specifically alleges that the governor acted ‘incompetently,’ Recall Dunleavy argues that it encompasses all three grounds for recall alleged in the application’s introductory phrase. We conclude only that the allegation satisfies at least one of the statutorily prescribed grounds for recall; we leave it to the voters to decide whether it satisfies more than one.”

In a dissenting piece, Supreme Court Justice Craig Stowers wrote he dissents from “the court’s holdings that Recall Dunleavy’s two allegations concerning Governor Dunleavy’s exercise of his constitutional authority to veto certain appropriations by the legislature are legally sufficient.” He added that in his opinion neither allegation is legally sufficient.

The dissent goes on to challenge the court’s opinion and urges lawmakers to carefully consider the court’s opinion.

“The opinion opens the door to standardless recall petitions,” wrote Stowers.

Dunleavy responded to Friday’s opinion saying, “the Alaska Supreme Court today issued an opinion that creates a standardless recall process, subjecting elected officials at every level, and across the political spectrum, to baseless, expensive, and distracting recall elections by their political opponents. The court has made it clear that even plainly false allegations of wrongdoing can trigger this process, undermining our election process, and prevents our elected officials from focusing on the many serious issues facing Alaskans.”

He added that the legislature “can and should fix the law” pertaining to recall grounds in Alaska.

Friday’s opinion means that the supreme court found that the Recall Dunleavy “application satisfied the legal requirements” to be put in front of voters; however, Recall Dunleavy will still need to gather the required signatures by 180 days before the end of Dunleavy’s current term — June 8, 2022.

Below is the full opinion.

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