Politics & Government

Alaska Supreme Court will hear 'troopergate' challenge

The Alaska Supreme Court has agreed to hear an emergency appeal from lawyers seeking to shut down the Legislature's troopergate investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin.

The action comes the day after Anchorage Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski threw out their lawsuit attempting to halt the Legislature's investigation of what's known as troopergate. The suit was filed on behalf of a group of Republican state legislators who oppose the investigation.

In a written order issued about late Friday, the Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments on the appeal at 3 p.m. Wednesday, and agreed to rule by the end of the next Thursday.

The urgency on timing is because Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, is set to release his report next Friday. Branchflower is looking into Palin's dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, and whether she improperly pressured him to fire a state trooper divorced from her sister.

Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute and Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson, representing the group of anti-investigation legislators, filed the emergency appeal.

"The plaintiffs and Alaskans will suffer irreparable harm if the investigation at issue continues and if the resulting investigative report issues as planned on Oct. 10, 2008," they wrote in their appeal.

The lawyers argued that allowing the investigation to proceed would threaten the right under the Alaska Constitution to a "fair and just" investigation by the Legislature. They also argued the Legislative Council overstepped its authority in investigating.

The state legislators whose names appear on the appeal are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn.

Judge Michalski, in dismissing their lawsuit Thursday, ruled the conduct of the Legislature's investigation did not violate the right to fairness.

He found much of the argument against the investigation is not for the courts to decide but is rather "business to be left to the legislative branch."

The judge Thursday also threw out the argument of Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg, a Palin appointee attempting to quash subpoenas ordering state officials to testify in the investigation.

The attorney general's office has not joined the appeal to the state Supreme Court. Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Colberg would not be saying what his next move would be until he has a chance to discuss it with the subpoenaed state officials.

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