Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and the Dunleavy administration have found little success in their efforts to argue that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME requires the state of Alaska crack down on public sector unions and interfere with the collection of union dues.
An Alaska Superior Court judge this week issued a preliminary injunction against the state and denied the state’s request to bring an end to the case at this stage.
None of that seems to be a damper for the administration, which is pushing ahead to what it hopes will be a precedent-setting appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today the Department of Law issued a request for proposals seeking to spend up to $600,000 to bring on a law firm “to support the state’s litigation efforts to defend the Attorney General’s opinion concerning the interpretation of the Janus decision and the governor’s administrative order implementing the decision.”
The request for proposal says interested parties must have “membership in the U.S. Supreme Court Bar; an office in the Washington-DC metro area; and appearance before the Supreme Court.”
So far, the state has been arguing the case not with state attorneys but hired attorneys from the conservative law firm of Consovoy McCarthy, which is making headlines as the firm arguing that President Trump is above the law.
The state initially spent $50,000 to hire the firm and later upped that to $100,000 before running into state restrictions on how much money can be spent without a competitive bid process.
The request for proposal also notes that the “approval or continuation of a contract resulting from this is contingent upon legislative appropriation.”
Why it matters
The proposal says a lot about the administration’s priorities.
The state has refused to defend the last remaining provisions of the Alaska hire law, citing the potential cost to defend the law and Clarkson’s view that the state would be unlikely to prevail in such an endeavor.
Now, the state—faced with the same cost and, at least so far, a proven track record of failure—is pushing ahead with an attempt to further undermine public sector unions.
The price tag, quoted between $500,000 and $600,000, also comes amid the administration’s claims that the state is facing a severe budget crisis that has resulted in everything from the vetoing of senior benefits (which were later restored by the Alaska Legislature) and the denial of tens of thousands of dollars for rural groups to recruit and retain Village Public Safety Officers.
Also, it’s likely that the price tag quoted in the request for proposal is underestimating the costs.
Alaska’s hovercrafting folk hero John Sturgeon recently said his successful run to the U.S. Supreme Court cost $1.5 million. The Alaska Legislature has frequently denied attempts by some members to funnel Sturgeon money to help with his case. Will they have a different opinion for Clarkson’s case?