Alaska Supreme Court Justice Morgan Christen is stepping down from hearing a lawsuit against a ballot initiative that would make doctors tell a teenage girl's parents before she could get an abortion.
The lawsuit against the initiative was filed by Planned Parenthood, and Christen was a board member of Planned Parenthood during the mid-1990s. The Alaska Family Council had sent out e-mail alerts Tuesday and Wednesday, urging its members to contact the state judicial conduct commission and complain that Christen had a conflict of interest and shouldn't be participating in the case.
Christen sent out a notice Wednesday afternoon that she was removing herself from the case. She didn't offer an explanation. The case will go forward, with the other four Supreme Court justices scheduled to hear arguments May 20.
Christen had invited attorneys in the case to file any objections to her participation. Kevin Clarkson, lawyer for the initiative sponsors, responded with an objection last month.
Planned Parenthood didn't take any position on whether Christen should be involved in the case, although it did give the court a list of situations where other judges with comparable past affiliations did not step down from their cases.
Clover Simon, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Alaska, said Wednesday that Christen is probably a very fair judge but that her decision to step aside will remove any potential cloud over the Supreme Court's decision in the case.
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