An Anchorage Superior Court has ruled that Governor Michael Dunleavy violated the Alaska Constitution when he vetoed $334,700 from the Alaska Court System twice for a Supreme Court ruling at odds with his personal beliefs.
In the Friday decision, Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson wrote: “The Governor, through exercise of his veto power, has exacted a monetary punishment of the judiciary for the very performance of its constitutional duties. There perhaps could be no more direct a threat against judicial independence. The idea that the judiciary's budget could be based upon the popularity of its decisions, rather than on a coherent assessment of the actual needs of the Court System, strikes at the core of the structural protections of the separation of powers doctrine.”
The Court’s ruling requires the state to restore funding for the 2021 veto and voids it.
“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 ACLU of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff.
The ACLU of Alaska filed suit against Governor Dunleavy on July 17, 2019, after the Governor retaliated against the court system because months earlier the Alaska Supreme Court ruled to protect low-income women’s right to choose whether they want to be a parent.
Dunleavy doubled down on his veto for fiscal year 2021 by once again using his veto power to punish the courts. In July 2020, the ACLU of Alaska amended its lawsuit to defend against the Governor’s second brazen attack on democracy.
“Governor Dunleavy’s actions were unprecedented for many reasons, but his attempt to politicize and compromise the judiciary and the healthcare of women happens all too often in Alaska and across the nation. The health of our people and of our democracy should never be a point of political jockeying – but that has become the norm. So, we will continue to fight every attack. Our democracy depends on it,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua Decker.