Judge rules against effort to remove some Dunleavy appointees

Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg closely watches an attorney during opening arguments in a recent civil trial.
Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg closely watches during opening arguments in a civil trial. Pallenberg ruled on Friday against a motion that would have caused 94 of Gov. Dunleavy’s appointees to lose their positions. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees will be able to remain in place for now, after a Juneau Superior Court judge ruled against an effort by lawmakers to remove some of them.

Under the state constitution, the governor’s appointees are subject to confirmation by the majority of legislators. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen before the legislative session ended in May. 

A law passed before the session ended said that that if the Legislature didn’t act to confirm the appointees within 30 days of the public health disaster ending, then it would amount to rejecting the appointees and the positions would become vacant. 

The Legislative Council filed a lawsuit on Dec. 23 seeking to remove appointees made since April 2019 to positions that require the Legislature’s approval. The council wanted Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg to issue an injunction that would have made dozens of seats on boards and commissions immediately vacant. 

It also would have removed Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney. Her department helps prepare the state budget, and oversees state finances, taxation and the distribution of permanent fund dividends. 

The original disaster declaration expired on Nov. 15, so the Legislative Council argued that the positions became vacant 30 days later, on Dec. 15. Dunleavy’s administration argued that the constitution and other laws still required that the Legislature act on the appointments. 

Pallenberg denied the Legislative Council’s request on Friday, so the appointees remain in place. He still must decide on the merits of the overall lawsuit

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