Judge rules against legislative effort to remove some Dunleavy appointees for now

A white old man in a judge's robee sits at a desk in front of an Alaskan flag
Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg closely watches an attorney during opening arguments in a recent civil trial. (Matt Miller/KTOO)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees will be able to remain in place for now, after a Juneau Superior Court judge ruled against an effort by lawmakers to remove some of them.

Under the state constitution, the governor’s appointees are subject to confirmation by the majority of legislators. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen before the legislative session ended in May. 

law passed before the session ended said that if the Legislature didn’t act to confirm the appointees within 30 days of the COVID-19 disaster declaration expiring, the appointees would effectively be rejected and the positions would become vacant.

The original disaster declaration expired on Nov. 15. The Legislative Council argued the the positions became vacant 30 days later, on Dec. 15. Dunleavy’s administration argued the constitution and other laws still required that the Legislature act on the appointments.  

The Legislative Council filed a lawsuit on Dec. 23, seeking to remove all unconfirmed appointees, who have been serving in positions that require approval, since April 2019. The council wanted Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg to issue an injunction that would have made dozens of seats on boards and commissions immediately vacant. 

It also would have removed Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney. Her department helps prepare the state budget, and oversees state finances, taxation and the distribution of permanent fund dividends.  

Pallenberg denied the Legislative Council’s request on Friday, so the appointees remain in place. He still must decide on the merits of the overall lawsuit