Alaska Gov. Dunleavy didn’t have power to extend appointees’ terms, judge rules

Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg closely watches an attorney during opening arguments in a recent civil trial.
Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg closely watches an attorney during opening arguments in a civil trial. Pallenberg ruled in favor of the Alaska Legislative Council in a lawsuit against Gov. Mike Dunleavy over whether the governor had the power to extend 94 appointees’ terms late last year. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

A Juneau Superior Court judge has ruled that Gov. Mike Dunleavy didn’t have the power to extend many of his appointees’ terms late last year after the Legislature failed to meet to confirm them.

The decision stems from a lawsuit the Alaska Legislative Council filed against Dunleavy, saying that he didn’t have the power to keep 94 appointees after a Dec. 15 legal deadline because they weren’t confirmed by the Legislature during the pandemic. The administration argued that the Legislature had a constitutional duty to meet to consider the appointments. On Thursday, Judge Philip Pallenberg ruled in favor of the Legislative Council.

The decision doesn’t affect whether the appointees can serve now. Dunleavy reappointed them when the new Legislature reconvened on Jan. 19.

The council didn’t ask the court to invalidate the actions taken by the appointees between Dec. 16 and Jan. 18.

Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, the former council chair, said in a statement that the decision affirms the Legislature’s confirmation power.

The Department of Law says it’s disappointed in the ruling.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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