Gavel (Courtesy photo)

Court sides with Dunleavy in appointments dispute

The court, in a brief order, reversed a ruling by a superior court judge.

  • By Becky Bohrer Associated Press
  • Thursday, April 8, 2021 9:52pm
  • NewsState News

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

The Alaska Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Gov. Mike Dunleavy in ruling that the state constitution requires legislators to decide on gubernatorial appointments in a joint session.

The court also struck down a provision of law dealing with appointments as unconstitutional, saying that appointments requiring confirmation remain in effect until the Legislature acts on them in joint session.

The court, in a brief order, reversed a ruling by Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg from February that found that Dunleavy, a Republican, was prohibited by law from making recess appointments of the same people lawmakers had failed to confirm.

[Court hears agruments in dispute over appointments]

A full opinion by the Supreme Court was expected to be issued later.

The Legislative Council, composed of House and Senate leaders, sued the governor in December, arguing that appointments Dunleavy presented in early 2020 lapsed in December when lawmakers failed to act on them. The council, through its attorneys, said Dunleavy was free to reappoint a person who was declined when the new legislative session began. The current session started on Jan. 19.

Attorneys for the state argued some provisions of law dealing with appointments were unconstitutional. They also appealed Pallenberg’s decision to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Tuesday.

Messages seeking comment were sent to the Department of Law, which represented Dunleavy, and to a legislative attorney and the Senate majority press office. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the council was chaired by a senator.

The Supreme Court concluded that the state constitution requires that the Legislature may decide whether to confirm or decline to confirm a governor’s appointments “only ‘by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session.’”

The Supreme Court found unconstitutional a longstanding provision of law that states that a failure of the Legislature “to act to confirm or decline to confirm an appointment during the regular session in which the appointment was presented is tantamount to a declination of confirmation on the day the regular session adjourns.”

Lawmakers often wait until near the end of the regular session to meet jointly and vote on appointments. But lawmakers last year rushed to finish their most pressing work amid concerns about the pandemic and passed a law allowing them to adjourn and take up confirmations later.

That law said if lawmakers didn’t act on the appointments either a month after an initial pandemic disaster declaration expired or by Jan. 18 — whichever was first — that amounted to them declining to confirm those people. The declaration ended on Nov. 15.

But Dunleavy, in a letter dated Dec. 16, said he viewed as valid appointees the Legislature had not acted to confirm. He said he would re-submit names of people who had not been confirmed and submit any new picks during the session now underway.

Pallenberg, in a written judgment, had found the appointments Dunleavy presented to the Legislature during the 2020 session were not valid from Dec. 16 “until the time at which those appointments were, if ever, presented” by Dunleavy to the Legislature for the current session.

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read