Elizebeth (Libby) Bakalar was employed by the State of Alaska as an assistant attorney general in the Department of Law for over twelve years. During that time she became an indispensable member of the Labor and State Affairs section, and was called upon to represent numerous state agencies in the Departments of Health and Social Services, Administration, Public Safety, Education and Early Development, and Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
In 2013, Ms. Bakalar received the Attorney General’s Award for Legal Writing from then-Attorney General Michael Geraghty, which is given periodically to just one attorney in the Department of Law for excellence in legal writing. The award reads: “In recognition of your thorough research, rigorous analysis, and clear writing—often accomplished on tight deadlines. Your written work product is exceptional.”
On November 16, 2018, Gov. Mike Dunleavy's Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock sent a memorandum to more than 1,200 at-will State of Alaska employees, including Ms. Bakalar, requesting their resignations. The Babcock memorandum states in part that “the incoming administration will be making numerous personnel decisions” and that Mr. Dunleavy “is committed to bringing his own brand of energy and direction to state government.”
Although characterized as “customary during the transition from one administration to the next,” the request for resignations was sent to an unprecedented number of State of Alaska employees, including, according to several Alaska legislators who criticized the move, “medical doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists, fiscal analysts, state tax code specialists, investment managers, petroleum geologists, trust managers, accountants, research analysts, IT professionals, loan officers, military & veterans affairs coordinators, marine transportation managers, administrative law judges, and state attorneys presently working on behalf of the public on important and complicated legal issues, including prosecutors on criminal cases.”
Inherent in the First Amendment’s guarantee is the principle that public employees in non-policymaking roles cannot constitutionally be compelled to relinquish the free speech rights they otherwise enjoy as citizens to comment on matters of public interest, however, it is clear that public statements Ms. Bakalar made that differed from Gov. Dunleavy's politics resulted in her being one of the employees whose resignations were accepted.
Gov. Dunleavy was sworn in as the Governor of Alaska at 12:00 p.m. on December 3, 2018. At 12:18 p.m., Ms. Bakalar was notified that her resignation had been accepted and that her employment had been terminated. She was given less than two hours to clean outher office and leave the building. Ms. Bakalar’s employment was terminated at the direction of Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Babcock.
By terminating Ms. Bakalar’s employment, Defendants violated, and continue to violate, Ms. Bakalar’s rights to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.