Cole

Dermot Cole





Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has lost another round in state court in his anti-union crusade. It turns out the $600-an-hour discount legal help he sought from President Trump’s lawyers, the same guys who say the president is above the law, didn’t help.

The state has now wasted $100,000 losing a case in state court that should have been handled by the Department of Law, if handled by anyone at all. Clarkson brought this lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees Association and has the temerity to complain that the union is trying to run up lawyer fees.

The department says it will have to issue a request for proposals for additional help to push Clarkson’s unique interpretation of the Janus case, as this venture is going to cost much more than the $50,000 Clarkson said it would in August, which makes the situation that much worse.

Clarkson dreams of arguing this case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is why he gave a no-bid contract to the “boutique” right-wing firm, Consovoy McCarthy. The AG wants to get this fight out of the state court system and into the federal system as fast as possible.

He is treating the Alaska judicial system as an unwanted obstacle impeding his progress to the Supremes.

But due process requires a real examination in Alaska and an investigation of claims made by the state that the union says are false. The state is insisting that this case should already have been settled and moved to the next level. Not so fast.

Clarkson has miscalculated, both on his legal strategy and the hiring of the discount lawyers, whose no-bid deal has already been doubled to $100,000.

On Tuesday, Anchorage Judge Greg Miller granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state from creating more obstacles for state unions collecting dues from their members. Miller’s injunction follows a temporary restraining order he issued Oct. 3.

In both decisions, he had harsh words for the state handling of the case against the Alaska State Employees Association.

In the TRO, he said the union was likely to win on the merits as the state arguments were “contrary to the express wording of Janus, contrary to all known opinions from other states’ attorneys general, and contrary to nine federal court decisions, two administrative agency decisions, and two arbitration awards.” Here is that decision.

Two more court decisions have come in since then, one in California and one in New Mexico, both rejecting Clarkson’s interpretation of federal law.

The state and the discount lawyers had a novel argument about their desire for speedy justice.

Clarkson and Consovoy McCarthy asked for a final ruling from Miller in the case, even though they had lost on the temporary restraining order in October and failed to present any new arguments against the preliminary injunction.

“The state offers no legal authority for this novel argument—that having lost at the TRO stage and offering no new arguments at the preliminary injunction stage—that the preliminary injunction should now be denied, that final judgment should be entered in favor of the state, and that ASEA should not be permitted to pursue discovery or a determination on the merits of all five of its counterclaims,” Miller wrote.

The state lawyers pretended to be amazed that the union would oppose Clarkson’s plan for an expeditious settlement of the case, given that the judge had said the union was likely to win on the merits. No one was amazed.

“Regardless of the union’s reasons-whether to inflict discovery pain, to run up attorney’s fees, to delay final resolution of these issues, or simply, as it puts it, to ‘tie up loose ends,’ . . . the union has provided no legitimate reason for postponing entry of final judgment,” the state said.

Had Clarkson gone to the judge and asked for a final judgement in favor of the union, declaring that the state had lost on the merits, that would have been amazing. But the goal is the same either way—get Clarkson’s crusade to the federal courts as soon as possible.

Dermot Cole can be reached at dermotmcole@gmail.com

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