Friday, October 3, 2008

Judge hands down ruling in Troopergate lawsuit

Judge Peter Michalski said, the Steve Branchflower investigation does not violate due process. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they may appeal the decision.
Critics of the investigation tried very hard to throw the defense off-guard. On Wednesday, six republican lawmakers filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the investigation, and late afternoon Wednesday, another last-minute challenge questioning whether Peter Maassen should be allowed to represent Sen. Lyda Green. But in the end, their attempts failed.

For about two hours, Michalski listened to arguments aimed at quashing the seven subpoenas, as well as stopping the investigation altogether.

"Sen. French's response was not to move the investigation after the election to remove all the political aspects of it but to move it earlier, keeping it in October so he could have his October surprise," said Kevin Clarkson, the plaintiffs' attorney.

The defense argued that the investigation is a vital part of constitutional checks and balances.

"If the legislature doesn't have the ability to oversee the actions of the executive, then who does?" said defense attorney Maassen. "Is there anybody in this courtroom who wants to live in a state where the executive is accountable only to the executive? I would think, used to think, the answer to that would be a resounding 'no,' especially from the people like the legislators who are the plaintiffs here."

Rep. Carl Gatto joined the five Republican plaintiffs late Wednesday night.

"Temporary restraining order -- it's temporary," Gatto said. "We're not trying to squash anything. Let's just say it's more important for us to not make this political."

But the defense argues, the request is in itself political.

"There's a legislative investigation within the legitimate sphere of legislative activity, and for the court to even contemplate even shutting it down would be seismic for the balance of powers, the separation of powers doctrine in the state of Alaska. We ask that the motion for TRO be denied."

Ending the debate Judge Michalski adjourned for deliberation, "We'll take the matter under advisement. We'll be in recess."

Hours later, the judge ruled in favor of the defense.

Maassen says he's very pleased with the ruling.

"This is a good day for the constitution," he said.

The plaintiffs' attorneys, however, released a statement: "This decision is dangerous because it robs every Alaskan of the protection specifically provided by the Alaska constitution."

The conclusion of the legislative investigation is slated for October 10th.

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