Update (Jan. 29, 11:04 a.m.) — Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth has once again issued a stay that halts the organization Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures to hold a recall election, pending a decision from the Alaska Supreme Court. (Read more)
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth, in his second reversal in two days, has taken back his order that paused the campaign to recall Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, with court system officials saying it was issued accidentally while Aarseth was out of town.
The ruling effectively ends a day-long timeout for the recall campaign, and will allow the group to to proceed to the signature-gathering phase of its effort, barring further action from Aarseth or intervention by the Alaska Supreme Court.
Aarseth is the lower court judge overseeing the case between the recall campaign and Dunleavy’s defenders, who are still fighting over whether the campaign’s basis for recall meets requirements set out in Alaska law.
State elections officials, relying on advice from Dunleavy’s attorney general, Kevin Clarkson, originally rejected the recall campaign’s grounds. But Recall Dunleavy sued, and Aarseth, in a decision earlier this month, said all but one part of the campaign’s four grounds for recall are legally sufficient.
Aarseth ordered the state to prepare the petitions that more than 71,000 Alaskans must sign in order to pose the recall question to voters. And he said the signature booklets should be issued to the recall campaign no later than Feb. 10.
Dunleavy’s defenders said they would appeal Aarseth’s decision to the Alaska Supreme Court. And Brewster Jamieson, an attorney for the anti-recall group Stand Tall With Mike, said he would also ask Aarseth for a stay, which would pause the effect of Aarseth’s ruling and block the state from issuing the recall petitions until the Alaska Supreme Court could review his decision.
But at the time, Aarseth said it was unlikely that he would grant Jamieson’s request.
Then, on Tuesday, without asking for counterarguments from the recall campaign, Aarseth granted Jamieson’s request. He issued a signed, stamped order that said: “This matter is stayed pending resolution of this case in the Alaska Supreme Court.”
That decision came as a surprise to the recall effort, said campaign manager Claire Pywell.
“Given Judge Aarseth’s very clear and very strong statement from the bench, it seemed like the two things were in conflict with one another,” she said.
Twenty-six hours later, on Wednesday morning, Aarseth issued a new order that was signed by a different judge on his behalf, saying the previous one was “inadvertently issued” and revoked. Late Wednesday, the Alaska Court System released a statement saying Aarseth had been out of town on an “urgent family issue” and, by phone, agreed to grant a separate motion from Jamieson that asked only for “expedited consideration” of the request for a stay.
The request for the stay itself, the statement added, “was inadvertently granted as well.”
Technically, Stand Tall With Mike’s request for the stay is now pending again, and Aarseth noted that he’d received the recall effort’s opposing brief that was filed after his ruling Tuesday. He asked Stand Tall With Mike to file its final reply by Thursday.
This story has been updated.