July 9, 2019,
The Honorable Bryce Edgmon
Speaker of the House
State Capitol, Room 208
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
The Honorable Cathy Giessel
President of the Senate
State Capitol, Room 111
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
The Honorable Steve Thompson
House Majority Leader
State Capitol, Room 204
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
The Honorable Lyman Hoffman
Senate Majority Leader
State Capitol, Room 508
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
The Honorable Lance Pruitt
House Minority Leader
State Capitol, Room 404
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
The Honorable Tom Begich
Senate Minority Leader
State Capitol, Room 11
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Dear Speaker Edgmon, Representative Thompson, Representative Pruitt, President Giessel, Senator Hoffman, and Senator Begich:
We are Alaskan women lawyers writing to ask that you vote to override Governor Dunleavy’s veto of Alaska Court System funds.
The Governor candidly admitted that he vetoed this allocation in retaliation for the Alaska Supreme Court’s substantive decisions. Withholding court system funding in an attempt to control judicial decisions is a stunning attack on the separation of powers, which is crucial to our democracy.
Judicial independence and separation of powers are bedrock principles of our form of government. More than 200 years ago, in Marbury v. Madison, the United States Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review and defined the boundaries between the executive and judicial branches of the government. Marbury held that if a statute conflicts with the Constitution, the Constitution is supreme, and the courts may invalidate the unconstitutional law. This doctrine is a cornerstone of our entire constitutional system. Indeed, the Federalist Papers, the foundation of modern American conservatism, advocated for “the complete independence of the courts.” Without an independent judiciary, whose duty it was to declare all acts contrary to the constitution void, all constitutional rights and privileges would be meaningless.
These principles are no less fundamental to Alaska’s democracy. The Alaska Constitution vests specific powers in each branch of government and contains even stronger protections against governmental overreach than its federal counterpart. The judicial branch has not only the power, but also the duty, to strike down legislation that violates the Alaska Constitution. The Framers of Alaska’s constitution recognized that the separation of powers doctrine protects the electorate from tyranny; for this reason, delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention insisted that Alaska judges remain independent and free from executive branch pressure.
Flouting these principles of Alaska’s very democratic structure, Governor Dunleavy is attempting to control Alaska judges by tying Court System funding to his personal agreement with judicial opinions. The Governor vetoed a portion of the Appellate Court’s operating budget because he disagrees with the Alaska Supreme Court’s holding that the Alaska Medicaid program must apply the same definition of “medically necessary” to women on Medicaid who seek abortions as to women seeking care to continue a pregnancy.To do otherwise would discriminate against women for exercising their fundamental rights protected by the Alaska Constitution. The Governor explained that he was vetoing the court’s funding because “[t]he Legislative and Executive Branch are opposed to State funded elective abortions; the only branch of government that insists on State funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court.” The Governor’s veto was not motivated by cost savings. Most abortions cost the Medicaid program $650 to $750, while a typical
uncomplicated hospital delivery costs Medicaid approximately $12,000.
Whatever your personal view about abortion funding, this is a shocking attack on the separation of powers and judicial independence that cannot stand. The Governor’s intent is clear: to punish the judiciary for its interpretation of the Alaska Constitution. But interpreting the constitution is precisely the job of the courts, and the courts alone. When the government violates individual constitutional rights, the courts are bound by duty to act. The Governor’s veto therefore is an attempt to impermissibly control, coerce, and restrain the judiciary from exercising its independent judgment. This action violates the foundational principles of our government, it violates the separation of powers doctrine inherent in the Alaska Constitution, and it erodes our democracy in fundamental, structural ways. Allowing this veto to stand would set a precedent that will diminish all our rights by subjecting them to gubernatorial veto—now, and in future administrations. And not only are a woman’s most basic fundamental rights threatened, but all rights that Alaskans across the political spectrum hold dear, like gun ownership and religious freedom.
Please vote to override this veto and restore the separation of powers and the independence of Alaska’s judiciary.
Stephanie Aicher
Anna Ambrose
Marie Anders
Joy Anderson
Saritha Anjilvel
Danielle Bailey
Elizabeth Bakalar
Nora Barlow
Karen Bendler
Margret Bergerud
Maude Blair
Corrie Bosman
Suzanne Bostrom
Ruth Botstein
Teresa Bowen
Chrystal Brand
Lacey Jane Brewster
Brook Brisson
Heather Brown
Jessica Brown
Gayle Brown
Valerie Brown
Julie Bryant
Mary Bullis
Traci Bunkers
Deborah Burlinski
Rhonda Butterfield
Joanna Cahoon
Casey Carruth-Hinchey
Siena Caruso
Sarah Carver
Rachel Cella
Shelley Chaffin
Joan Clover
Emily Cooper
Ann Courtney
Krissell Crandall
Anna Crary
Beverly Cutler
Louann Cutler
Carol Daniel
Valerie Davidson
Michelle Delappe
Erin Dougherty Lynch
Margaret Dowling
Heidi Drygas
Erin Egan
Amanda Eklund
Monica Elkinton
Monique Eniero
Susan Evans
Susan Falk
Julie Fields
Lea Filippi
Lisa Fitzpatrick
Elizabeth Fleming
Maryann Foley
Alexandra Foote-Jones
Elizabeth Friedman
Gayle Garrigues
Brittany Goodnight
Jessica Graham
Emma Haddix
Helena Hall
Hollis Handler
Amanda Harber
Stephanie Harrod
Leone Hatch
Sara Heideman
Carolyn Heyman
Leslie Hiebert
Lindsay Hobson
Lee Holen
Carole Holley
Selena Hopkins-Kendall
Kay Howard
Karla Huntington
Saraellen Hutchison
Melanie Iverson
Dena Ivey
Leslie Jaehning
Kelly Jantunen
Monica Jenicek
Maresa Jenson
Lee Jones
Sarah Josephson
Erika Kahill
Olena Kalytiak Davis
Kathy Keck
Pamela Kelley
Meghan Kelly
Marion Kelly
Kirsten Kinegak-Friday
Cortney Kitchen
Marna Kranenburg
Elizabeth Leduc
Grace Lee
Jahna Lindemuth
Becky Lipson
Toni London
Susan R. Longacre
Emily Maass
Amy Mackenzie
Mary Lynn Macsalka
Mera Matthews
Byrona Maule
Kelly McHugh
Margaret McLane
Shantal McNeil
Amy R. Menard
Allison Mendel
Marissa Merculieff
Michelle Meshke
Julia Metzger
Donna Meyers
Kristina Miller
Lara Nations
Michelle Nesbett
Amy Newman
Lannette Nickens
Rebecca Noblin
Linda O'Bannon
Judith O'Kelley
Deborah O'Regan
Katelyn Oldham
Susan Orlansky
Christine Pate
Rebecca Patterson
Elizabeth Pederson
Janet Platt
Helen Poitra-Chalmers
Danee Pontious
Tasha Porcello
Bridget Psarianos
Jody Reausaw
Dawn Reed-Slaten
Janine Reep
Susan Reeves
Deborah Reichard
Janet Rice
Elizaveta Ristroph
Catherine Rogers
Renea Saade
Sohaila Sagheb
Megan Sandone
Sarah Schirack
Sarah Shine
Caitlin Shortell
Sharon Sigmon
Natasha Singh
Michelle Sinnott
Moira Smith
Elizabeth Smith
Katy Soden
Lauren Sommer
Andrena Stone
Allison Strickland
Katherine Strong
Cynthia Strout
Ashley Sundquist
Robin Taylor
Camille Taylor
Lane Tucker
Sarah Tugman
Diane Vallentine
Jennifer Wagner
Nancy Wainwright
Stacy Walker
Diane Walsh
Kelsey Webber
Cristina Weidner-Tafs
Lisa Weissler
Jana Weltzin
Tara Wheatland
Sandra Wicks
Denise Wike
Diana Wildland
Jessica Willoughby
Jill Wittenbrader
Emily Wright
* A significant number
of additional women
lawyers expressed
private support, but did
not sign out of concern
for retribution.
cc: Members of the Alaska House of Representatives
Members of the Alaska State Senate
Office of the Governor