The state’s lawsuit against builders of the fast ferries took another unexpected turn on Wednesday.
The German-builder of the ferry’s engines submitted a last-minute motion to remove the entire case to federal bankruptcy court. That would effectively take the entire lawsuit, at least temporarily, out of the hands of state Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg.
The Alaska Marine Highway System believes that the engines for the fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega are defective. But the vessel’s builders, Derecktor Shipyard of Connecticut, filed for bankruptcy protection in January. For now, they are not a defendant in the state’s lawsuit. But the case can still proceed against the German company that built the ferries’ engines, MTU Friedrichshafen, and the U.S. company that has done maintenance, MTU Detroit Diesel.
Attorneys for the state and ferry system were not happy about the surprise filing. Judge Pallenberg even considered that such a motion by a non-debtor could constitute a willful violation of the automatic stay in the state case.
Wednesday afternoon’s hearing was originally planned to compel engine builder MTU to produce witnesses for planned depositions for an upcoming trial. State attorneys believe that MTU is purposely hindering the pre-trial process by releasing witnesses or making them unavailable. MTU says that’s not the case.
All the parties hope to review the law before the hearing is continued on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, Judge Pallenberg warned MTU to “release witnesses (from depositions) at its own peril.”
- Mayor Ken Koelsch, Debbie White and Mary Becker opposed it. Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis was on a scratchy phone connection and did not respond to the roll call to vote.
- The proposal for a 130-unit high-rise apartment building to be built over a downtown city parking lot has alarmed some community members. But city officials say there is no final plan and closure of the deal is still months away.
- “Things have to have an endpoint to it, or they have to have something that keeps directing you, telling you that you’re in the right area,” said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.
- The Department of the Interior announced today that 29 local Alaska governments would receive $29.7 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes funds, or PILT.