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Press Release

Alaska Court Rules in Favor of Governor Dunleavy in Appointments Case

April 8, 2021

(Anchorage, AK) – Today, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an order in Dunleavy v. Alaska Legislative Council (S-18003), concluding that the governor’s appointments to executive branch boards and commissions that he presented last year to the Thirty-first Alaska Legislature remain in effect because of the legislature’s failure to act on them in joint session. The Court agreed with Governor Dunleavy that Article III, sections 25 and 26 of the Alaska Constitution require that the Alaska Legislature may decide whether to confirm or decline to confirm the governor’s appointments “only by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session.” The order, which the Court issued following the governor’s request for expedited briefing and oral argument, holds that the last sentence of AS 39.05.080(3), stating that “[f]ailure of the legislature to act to confirm or decline to confirm an appointment during the regular session in which the appointed is presented is tantamount to a declination of confirmation on the day the regular session adjourns,” is unconstitutional.

Attorney General Treg Taylor states, “I am pleased the Alaska Supreme Court issued this important decision, agreeing with Governor Dunleavy that under the Alaska Constitution, the men and women who serve in these important roles may continue to work on behalf of Alaskans until the legislature votes in joint session on their appointments. I also want to thank the hard working attorneys and staff at the Department of Law that did an excellent job in this case on a very short timeframe.”

The Court reversed and vacated the superior court’s earlier judgment in favor of the Alaska Legislative Council, which sued the governor claiming that nearly 100 executive branch officials it failed to vote on were deemed rejected by operation of law under AS 39.05.080(3). In agreeing with the governor that this provision is unconstitutional, the Court’s order provides helpful clarity to the legislature and the state’s public servants, and allows officials to continue serving pending a vote.

The court will issue a full decision explaining its order at a later date.

The litigation team consisted of Chief Assistant Attorney General Janell Hafner, Chief Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Bill Milks.

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Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr or Assistant Attorney General Charlotte Rand.