The state’s legal battles have been far more quiet this week than last, but the recall effort is moving toward its day in court.
The Recall Dunleavy campaign and the state are set to meet in court this Thursday for a scheduling hearing to outline the path forward on the group’s challenge to the state’s rejection of the recall application. The recall effort has pushed for an expedited resolution to the case while the state has argued there’s no need to hurry the case.
In legal filings, the Recall Dunleavy campaign has argued that Alaskans should have the opportunity to remove Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy from office—putting Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer in the governor’s office—before the next budget is approved.
“(The Recall Dunleavy campaign) expects it could have submitted sufficient signatures by the end of the year, causing a recall election to be scheduled in early spring. Alaskans could then have a different governor address the legislature’s budget and other laws proposed during this upcoming session,” argued the Recall Dunleavy campaign in a motion last week. “This is still possible with an expedited schedule.”
The state countered, arguing that such a motivation is purely political and outside the standards of a recall. There’s no need for an expedited hearing, the state ultimately argues, because the deadlines for a recall are not as hard as fast as they are for initiatives.
“The only real deadline that drives the timing of this case is the general election in 2022,” wrote the state in its response last week. “Consideration of the committee’s claim on a normal schedule need not delay the case for long.”
The Thursday hearing will decide the path ahead.
A new judge and a disclosure
That’s not the only development there’s been in the case.
The case was initially assigned to Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson, who is also presiding over the case challenging Dunleavy’s veto of the court system over its ruling on an abortion case. Henderson heard oral arguments on that case last week, and on Tuesday asked to have the recall lawsuit be reassigned.
Henderson said she was unsure that she would be able to “provide adequate hearing time and address the issues presented within the timelines” because of several other pending cases.
Her overseeing of the court veto case was not specifically referenced in her reassignment request, but the claims in that case are at play in the recall.
Her request was approved, and the case was reassigned to Judge Eric Aarseth.
In his motion approving Thursday’s scheduling hearing, Aarseth disclosed that Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer did attend a Nov. 3 military retirement ceremony for him. He said he doesn’t believe it would require a recusal and laid out in detail the interactions from the event.
“The Lt. Governor did not make a presentation or speech. I am not personal friends with the Lt. Governor, nor is any member of my family personal friends with any member of his family. This was, in fact, the first time I had ever met the Lt. Governor. I did speak with Lt. Governor Meyer at the ceremony while in the reception line. He complimented me on balancing my judicial duties with my military duties,” recalled Aarseth in the order. “We did not discuss any political issues or pending cases, to include this case.”
Why it matters
The Aarseth interaction with Meyer is mostly a weird coincidence. It’s normal for the state to send officials to these sorts of events and the event happened more than a week before Aarseth was assigned to the case.
The fight over the need to expedite the case will be consequential for the campaign’s path forward.
At the heart of the dispute is whether state law requires the courts to resolve the challenge within 30 days after the state’s rejection. The recall campaign argues it is while the state doesn’t.
The court’s efforts to make sure their schedules are clear, might suggest they agree with the recall campaign. We’ll find out on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.