Alaska Gov. Dunleavy didn’t have power to extend appointees’ terms, judge rules

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)

A Juneau Superior Court judge has ruled that Gov. Mike Dunleavy didn’t have the power to extend many of his appointees’ terms late last year after the Legislature did not meet to confirm them.

The decision stems from a lawsuit the Alaska Legislative Council filed against Dunleavy, arguing he didn’t have the power to keep 94 appointees after a Dec. 15 legal deadline because they weren’t confirmed by the Legislature during the pandemic. The administration argued the Legislature had a constitutional duty to meet to consider the appointments.

On Thursday, Judge Philip Pallenberg ruled in favor of the Legislative Council.

The decision doesn’t affect whether the appointees can serve now: Dunleavy reappointed them when the new Legislature reconvened on Jan. 19.

The council didn’t ask the court to invalidate actions taken by the appointees between Dec. 16 and Jan. 18.

Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, the former council chair, said in a statement the decision affirms the Legislature’s confirmation power.

The Department of Law said it’s disappointed in the ruling.