Former Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth argues on behalf of the Recall Dunleavy campaign Frida in Alaska Superior Court. Judge Eric Aarseth ruled that an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy may proceed, a decision that is expected to be appealed. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Former Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth argues on behalf of the Recall Dunleavy campaign Frida in Alaska Superior Court. Judge Eric Aarseth ruled that an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy may proceed, a decision that is expected to be appealed. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Judge rules in favor of Recall Dunleavy campaign, case heads to Alaska Supreme Court

Decision will be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court

An Anchorage judge on Friday morning ruled in favor of the Recall Dunleavy campaign and ordered the Division of Elections to move ahead with printing paperwork for the petition phase of the recall process.

“Today is so exciting because over 49,000 Alaskan voices were heard,” said Recall Dunleavy Campaign Manager Claire Pywell, referring to the number of people who signed the application. “We’re celebrating, but we know the real work begins.”

Judge Eric Aarseth made the ruling after hearing arguments Friday morning in Anchorage Superior Court.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration said it will appeal a decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Aarseth said he will issue a final written decision by the end of the business day on Monday. That decision can then be appealed and the process can move on to the state Supreme Court.

In a phone call Friday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh said the the Department of Law would have to consult with the administration on Monday to discuss how they wanted to move forward.

“We need to consult with our client on Monday,” Paton-Walsh said, “whether we want to request a stay against the ruling.”

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh argues on behalf of the Alaska Division of Elections Friday. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh argues on behalf of the Alaska Division of Elections Friday. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

A stay would temporarily stop DOE from preparing petition materials until the Supreme Court’s ruling.

On Friday, Aarseth ordered the DOE to begin drafting the petitions for a recall vote, but acknowledged the state planned to appeal the decision. Aarseth said he does not intend to issue a stay against his ruling, but encouraged the state to submit one in case the higher court might.

Paton-Walsh said the state’s legal team was evaluating the ruling.

“We are a little bit disappointed the decision wasn’t upheld,” she said.

Pywell said Aarseth’s ruling confirmed the grounds of the campaign’s allegations.

The recall campaign began in August following the governor’s announcement in July he intended to veto $444 million from the state budget crafted by the legislature.

“We’ve known that he’s the wrong man for the job, he din’t just break promises, he broke laws,” Pywell said.

In its application the campaign outlined legal grounds on which Dunleavy had shown lack of fitness for office. All of those grounds were accepted by Aarseth save one: the accusation that the governor’s vetoes prevented the Legislature from upholding its constitutional responsibilities for health, welfare and education.

The Legislature still had the power to override that certain vetoes, Aarseth ruled, and struck down that part of the campaign’s allegation. However, he did not rule against the first part of that allegation which argued the governor improperly used his veto power to attack the judiciary.

Lawyers for the Recall Dunleavy campaign, the State of Alaska, and Stand Tall with Mike, a private Dunleavy support organization named as an intervener in the case, made brief arguments in court, ending just before noon.

Representing the recall campaign, former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth argued the state had denied the application by “changing the rules of the game.”

The DOE and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson had raised the standards previously established by Alaska case law in order to deny the application, Lindemuth argued.

Aarseth ultimately agreed with that argument in his decision. If Aarseth were to have ruled in favor of the state, those raised standards would have become legal precedent.

“The court is of the opinion that it does not have the discretion to create more requirements,” Aarseth said.

Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth listens to arguments over an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy Friday in Anchorage. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth listens to arguments over an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy Friday in Anchorage. (Loren Holmes | Anchorage Daily News via AP)

The state previously denied the recall campaign’s allegation Dunleavy had violated Alaska law in refusing to appoint a Palmer Superior Court judge by saying no specific harm was demonstrated.

“Specific definition of harm is not a requirement,” Aarseth said. “Whether or not it is an important failure or not, the nature of the failure is up to the voters to weigh.”

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said the case addressed important issues which need to be addressed by the Supreme Court.

“All sides knew that is where this case was headed,” Mills wrote.

In an email Friday afternoon, Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the administration was preparing a public statement to be delivered soon. No statement was released before end of the business day Friday.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

More in News

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Pebble developer files appeal with Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership’s application in November.

This August 2019 photos shows a redline at Treadwell Arena designed by Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan. The arena is adding new weekly events to its schedule, City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Treadwell Arena adds new weekly events

Hockey and open skate are on the schedule.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Jan. 21

The most recent state and local numbers.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. ( Courtesy Photo / Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy pitches dividend change amid legislative splits

No clear direction has emerged from lawmakers.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, right, wearing a bib with ExxonMobil lettering on it, congratulates Peter Kaiser on his win in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor as the Iditarod prepares for a scaled-back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic, officials said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. ExxonMobil confirmed to The Associated Press that the oil giant will drop its sponsorship of the race. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties

The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read