Judge kills lawsuit against Obama donors in Palin review
Posted: October 04, 2008
12:00 am Eastern
By Chelsea Schilling
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
A judge has ruled the actions of three "Troopergate" lawmakers, including a financial supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, have not risen to the level of appearance of bias against Gov. Sarah Palin, but representatives of Liberty Legal Institute say they fully intend to appeal the decision.
A legislative team has been reviewing Palin for her removal of Walt Monegan, the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, after some say she fired him for refusing to terminate employment of a state trooper who was in the process of divorcing Palin's sister.
However, Palin claims Monegan failed to comply with a state budgetary plan and became insubordinate. She said she never ordered Monegan to fire the trooper.
The lawsuit filed Sept. 16 in the 3rd Judicial District at Anchorage by Liberty Legal Institute sought to stop the investigation because "the investigators have lost the appearance of impartiality required under the Alaska Constitution."
The suit alleges the Alaska Legislative Council inquiry, led by Sens. Hollis French and Kim Elton, with Stephen E. Branchflower as an investigator, violated state law because it was being used to further partisan politics and "smear" Palin.
"The partisan actions of Sen. French, Sen. Elton and Branchflower have tainted the investigation beyond the appearance of impartiality required under the Alaska Constitution," said Kevin Clarkson, of the firm Brena, Bell, & Clarkson and counsel in the suit.
According to the lawsuit, the investigation is being led by Obama supporters, and Elton donated $2,000 to the Obama campaign, then failed to disclose the gift to the Legislative Council.
"He continues to preside over the investigation despite his apparent personal political interest in the outcome of the investigation," the claim said. "Sen. French, the 'investigation project manager,' failed to disclose the comments he had made on a radio program criticizing Gov. Palin's termination of Monegan as 'criminal' prior to being appointed as the 'investigation project manager' and even prior to a vote to investigate at all."
And, the suit said, "Branchflower, the lead investigator, is alleged to be a personal friend of Monegan."
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Legal Institute and co-counsel in the case, said, "No government official should be allowed to abuse their power to advance their political or personal agenda for a smear campaign in violation of the constitutional guarantees of a fair and impartial investigation."
As WND reported, Sasser said state legislators were not as motivated to pursue the case before Palin was chosen to be Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential running mate. But things quickly changed.
"Elton has an interest. He has something that could affect his impartiality," Sasser said. "French has been going around making all kinds of (prejudicial) statements about evidence, saying there will be an October surprise."
"Under the Alaska Constitution, everyone deserves the appearance of a fair and impartial investigation," Sasser said.
Liberty Legal Institute sought to end partisan favoritism in the investigation and ban French, Elton and Branchflower from involvement. However, Judge Peter A. Michalski ruled today that while the court may duly enforce the due process clause against a legislative investigation, their actions have not risen to the level of the appearance of bias. He denied the temporary restraining order and dismissed the lawsuit.
"This decision is dangerous because it robs every Alaskan of the protection specifically provided by the Alaska Constitution," said Kevin Clarkson, lead counsel for the Alaska legislators and partner at Brena, Bell, & Clarkson.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Legal Institute and co-counsel in the case, released a statement saying, "We hope the Alaska Supreme Court will see that while some may benefit from this judicial abdication of its responsibility to protect the freedoms of all Alaskans, it poses a great danger to any future target of an unfair and biased investigation."
Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel at Liberty Legal Institute and co-counsel in the case, warned, "It may be the governor today, but it could be you tomorrow."
Firm representative Jennifer Grisham said Liberty Legal Institute will appeal the decision. They also noted Judge Michalski is the same judge who ruled in 1998 that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right. Alaska voters overruled his decision by approving a constitutional amendment.
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