Judge lifts hold on Recall Dunleavy campaign, saying order he issued 24 hours earlier was “inadvertent”

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters earlier this month at a fundraiser for Stand Tall With Mike, the group fighting the effort to recall the governor. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth, in his second reversal in two days, has taken back his order that paused the campaign to recall Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, with court system officials saying it was issued accidentally while Aarseth was out of town.

The ruling effectively ends a day-long time-out for the recall campaign, and will allow the group to to proceed to the signature-gathering phase of its effort, barring further action from Aarseth or intervention by the Alaska Supreme Court.

[Read Aarseth’s new order]

Aarseth is the lower court judge overseeing the case between the recall campaign and Dunleavy’s defenders, who are still fighting over whether the campaign’s basis for recall meets requirements set out in Alaska law.

State elections officials, relying on advice from Dunleavy’s attorney general, Kevin Clarkson, originally rejected the recall campaign’s grounds. But Recall Dunleavy sued, and Aarseth, in a decision earlier this month, said all but one part of the campaign’s four grounds for recall are legally sufficient.

[Read more: Judge rejects state’s effort to block Alaska Gov. Dunleavy recall campaign]

Aarseth ordered the state to prepare the petitions that more than 71,000 Alaskans must sign in order to put the recall question on the ballot. And he said the signature booklets should be issued to the recall campaign no later than Feb. 10.

Attorney Brewster Jamieson speaks to reporters before a fundraiser for Stand Tall With Mike, the group defending Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy from a recall campaign. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

Dunleavy’s defenders said they would appeal Aarseth’s decision to the Alaska Supreme Court. And Brewster Jamieson, an attorney for the anti-recall group Stand Tall With Mike, said he would also ask Aarseth for what’s known as a “stay.” That would pause the effect of Aarseth’s ruling — and block the state from issuing the recall petitions — until the Alaska Supreme Court could review his decision.

But at the time, Aarseth said it was unlikely that he would grant Jamieson’s request.

Then, on Tuesday, without asking for counter-arguments from the recall campaign, Aarseth granted Jamieson’s request. He issued a signed, stamped order that said: “This matter is stayed pending resolution of this case in the Alaska Supreme Court.”

That decision came as a surprise to the recall effort, said campaign manager Claire Pywell.

“Given Judge Aarseth’s very clear and very strong statement from the bench, it seemed like the two things were in conflict with one another,” she said.

Twenty-six hours later, on Wednesday morning, Aarseth issued a new order that was signed by a different judge on his behalf, saying the previous one was “inadvertent” and revoked. Late Wednesday, the Alaska Court System released a statement saying Aarseth had been out of town on an “urgent family issue” and, by phone, agreed to grant a separate motion from Jamieson that asked only for “expedited consideration” of the request for a stay.

The request for the stay itself, the statement added, “was inadvertently granted as well.”

Technically, Stand Tall With Mike’s request for the stay is now pending again, and Aarseth noted that he’d received the recall effort’s opposing brief that was filed after his ruling Tuesday. He asked Stand Tall With Mike to file its final reply by Thursday.

This is a breaking news story — check back for updates.

Nathaniel Herz is an Anchorage-based journalist. He's been a reporter in Alaska for a decade, and is currently reporting for Alaska Public Media. Find more of his work by subscribing to his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com. Reach him at natherz@gmail.com.

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