ANCHORAGE – The ACLU of Alaska has taken the next step to ensure that the integrity of the independent judiciary, and the Constitutional guarantee of the separation of powers is upheld in the State of Alaska. On February 21, 2020, the ACLU of Alaska asked the court to rule on Governor Michael Dunleavy’s unprecedented decision to reduce the FY 20 Alaska Court System funding in retaliation for an Alaska Supreme Court ruling at odds with his own personal beliefs.
The ACLU’s motion for summary judgment filed in state court last week explains that it’s the court’s duty and authority to declare Governor Dunleavy’s unprecedented Constitutional violation illegal and to order funding to be restored before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The ACLU of Alaska is hopeful Judge Jennifer Henderson will rule from the bench after oral arguments on April 15.
“The facts of this case are indisputable,” ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua Decker said. “The state cannot deny the Governor’s explicit motive to punish the courts for supporting low-income women’s right to access abortion. If the executive branch can cut funding every time a ruling is at odds with the political and personal agenda of its commander-in-chief, the judiciary is no longer independent, and that’s a threat to the very fabric of our democracy.”
On June 28, 2019, Governor Dunleavy issued a $334,700 line-item veto to the Alaska Court System in retaliation to the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.
In that case, Planned Parenthood—represented by a team that included the ACLU—challenged on equal protection grounds the constitutionality of a state statute and regulation that limited what abortions could be considered “medically necessary” to be eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. In February 2019, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the challenged statute and regulation violated the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution.
In the Governor’s “statement of objection” that accompanied the June veto, he said: “The Legislature 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.”
“Any court ruling should be impartial and free from political influence. If we allow this sort of brazen behavior to continue, we are robbing the judicial branch of its independence and integrity, and we are robbing the people of a fundamental constitutional principle,” Decker said.
Oral arguments will take place on April 15 at 2 p.m. in room 30 of the Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage.