Dunleavy/Clarkson see no need to 'rush to judgment' on recall court case

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson is doing all he can to stop the election initiative, so he is urging Alaska courts to act in an “extremely” expeditious manner. It’s a self-serving approach.

“The state seeks extremely expedited consideration of this appeal, so that this court can consider the state’s arguments on their merits,” Clarkson said in an emergency court filing Nov. 1, asking for a same-day scheduling decision.

He said every day was important because the initiative supporters were gathering signatures and he asked for “full-court consideration” by the Supreme Court, which is something like a full-court press. The public deserves speed and the state wants to “resolve this appeal as quickly as possible.”

The election reform initiative is a separate court fight than the one dealing with the recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Clarkson wants to tie up the recall in the court system for as long as possible.

Clarkson is doing all he can to stop the recall petition against his boss. The last thing in the world he wants for that, however, is expeditious handling, let alone “extremely expedited consideration.” What Dunleavy wants is what Clarkson wants, which is to run out the clock.

Clarkson claims there is “no need for the rush to judgment” requested by supporters of the recall in scheduling court hearings. That’s also a self-serving approach.

Clarkson was hired by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and he is hardly impartial in assessing the merits or the timing of the recall, though he has failed to recuse himself for this obvious conflict of interest. He is putting all of his weight behind the go-slow movement, a clear contradiction with his claim that the election initiative deserves a prompt review.

“The only date that drives the timing of a decision in this case and the inevitable appeal is the general election in 2022,” Clarkson said in a court filing Thursday, written by Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh.

State law allows a recall petition to be filed as late as June 8, 2022, six months before the end of Dunleavy’s term, so everyone can take a deep breath and allow the bureaucracy to do its thing, according to the Dunleavy administration.

“There is no fast-approaching immovable date that will thwart the committee’s attempt to get its recall petition on the ballot. And no emergency exists that necessitates the rushed briefing and decision that the committee requests,” Clarkson claims.

More than 46,000 voters signed the petition for the recall application, the first step in a long process. The Dunleavy/Clarkson strategy is to hope that as time passes those who signed the recall will go on to other things and forget all about this.

“if the committee prevails before this court, it must also prevail on appeal, and then must collect the necessary signatures to trigger a recall election, and then the governor must lost that election, before it could realize this ambitious goal,” Clarkson said. “The committee’s political agenda does not entitle it to expedited consideration.”

“Because the only deadline that would thwart the committee’s goal of recalling the governor is the date of the general election two-and-a-half years away, a delay of just a few weeks will inflict no harm on the committee and will permit the parties to brief this matter thoroughly and carefully.”

The goal is to delay for as long as possible, hoping that the recall momentum will dissipate.

The next step in the delay campaign came Thursday, when the state called for a new judge in the case, a peremptory challenge in which Judge Una Gandbhir was replaced by Judge Jennifer Henderson. Both were appointed by former Gov. Bill Walker.

The scheduling conference that had been set for this morning, at which the arguments for speeding things up would be heard, was cancelled because of the change in judges. A new hearing is likely next week.

Attorneys for the recall committee, including former Attorney General Jahna Lindemth, Scott Kendall and Samuel Gottstein, told the court that Clarkson’s argument against expedited consideration included no explanation of why a prompt resolution would harm the state.

That’s because a prompt resolution would not harm the state, though it might harm Dunleavy and Clarkson.

“The substantial interest of Alaskans across the state in pursuing the recall of the governor is undeniable,” they said. If the state has wrongly denied approval of the recall application, as alleged by the recall backers, “every day that passes harms Alaskans by denying them of their legitimate and constitutional right to recall the governor. Make no mistake the governor’s strategy here is to run out the clock.”

If the application had “not been illegally rejected, signature collection would be underway and a special recall election could be held in early spring,” they said.

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