Dunleavy loses another lawsuit over boneheaded loyalty pledge firings
“With a more measured approach (it would have been legal)” is a pretty good summation of the last three years.
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: A federal judge ruled today that Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock did, in fact, violate former state attorney Libby Bakalar’s First Amendment rights in their loyalty pledge firings; The House takes a crack at the governor’s budget that seems to magically be all things to all people… except for the part where it doesn’t leave much room for failure; You’ll never guess where the Dunleavy administration wants to station the 15 new state troopers that are in the budget, as well as other budget takeaways; and another masking dustup.
Spice level: 🌶️
Programming note: Tomorrow is the first day of the trial challenging the Alaska Redistricting Board’s work. I’ll be switching gears away from the Legislature as the trial is set to start at 8:30 a.m. and run through the day (and most of next week). I’ll be doing the play-by-play on Twitter and you can watch the trial on YouTube.
Prior to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s inauguration, I knew Libby Bakalar as one of the state’s more hard-hitting attorneys who had successfully argued all sorts of cases, including many that defended the state’s pro-development positions in court, who also happened to run a liberal blogger who lampooned just about everything save for the state of Alaska that was her job to defend. To some, it might have seemed like an inconceivable combination, but I always thought it spoke to her commitment to the job and the state. Obviously, the governor and former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock didn’t see it that way and Balakar was one of the first to go when the administration took office thanks to the duo’s bone-headed loyalty pledge firings.
That loyalty pledge—which required hundreds of employees to tender their resignation and sign onto the Dunleavy agenda if they wanted to keep their jobs—came to symbolize just about everything that the Dunleavy administration has come to be: Punitive, petty and legally fraught. It spawned the first of what would be many, many legal challenges that the administration would go on to lose.
Today, Bakalar’s lawsuit comes to a close with a federal judge ruling that the duo had violated Bakalar’s First Amendment rights.
While the other challenges on this matter stripped the duo’s qualified immunity, finding that both Babcock and Dunleavy could be held personally liable for their actions, this case maintains their immunity. It doesn’t set a penalty, which Bakalar told Alaska Public Media she’s not sure what damages she’ll pursue but said she doesn’t want her old job back.
“The meat of the case was that I was terminated in violation of my free speech rights,” she told the outlet. “And that’s what the judge found — that I was fired improperly under the state and federal constitutions, and that constitutes unfair dealing on the part of the state. So I’m pretty happy with the ruling.”