Judge halts enforcement of decision in Alaska recall case

A state court judge Wednesday, Jan. 29 put on hold a decision that would have allowed an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy to move to a new signature-gathering phase, a stay intended to provide time for the Alaska Supreme Court to weigh in.

Superior Judge Eric Aarseth in Anchorage agreed with arguments made by the recall opposition group Stand Tall With Mike in issuing the stay.

Earlier this month, Aarseth ruled the recall effort could proceed and ordered the Division of Elections to issue petitions by Feb. 10, to allow supporters to begin a second signature-gathering phase. At the time, he said he did not intend to grant a stay halting that process.

There was confusion last week when an order granting a stay was issued. Aarseth subsequently said that action was inadvertent and accepted additional arguments, including those given in court Wednesday morning.

Stand Tall With Mike argued, among other things, that if the Alaska Supreme Court made a decision invalidating part of the recall application during or after the signature-gathering effort that it would lead to more legal disputes and create confusion.

Aarseth said Wednesday that particular point resonated.


He said his interest lies with trying to “preserve and protect” voters’ ability to express their opinion.

“So when you have in mind that this is a process where the public is making this decision, you want to have as much clarity for the public as you can when they have to start making these decisions,” he said, adding that will really start when signatures are being gathered.

It will create confusion if someone signs the petition and the legal grounds that Aarseth approved are later invalidated, he said. “And from the court’s perspective, confusion equals harm,” Aarseth said.

He lifted the Feb. 10 deadline, putting on hold his ruling allowing the recall effort to advance until the Alaska Supreme Court makes a decision.

Jahna Lindemuth, an attorney for the Recall Dunleavy campaign, said she disagreed with the stay and asked Aarseth to require that appeals be filed quickly with the Alaska Supreme Court, suggesting a Friday deadline.

Brewster Jamieson, an attorney for Stand Tall With Mike, asked for a Monday deadline, saying he had other matters to tend to this week. He said the group meant it when it previously said it would support an expedited appeals schedule.

Aarseth ordered that appeal notices be filed by Monday.

Claire Pywell, the Recall Dunleavy campaign manager, in a statement said the campaign seeks a decision from the Supreme Court as soon as possible.