Alaska to pay ACLU attorneys after losing lawsuit over abortion-related court funding vetoes

The seal of the state of alaska as seen from below
The seal of the state of Alaska, behind the dais where Alaska Supreme Court justices hears cases in the Boney Courthouse in Anchorage. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The state of Alaska has been ordered to pay nearly $87,000 in attorneys fees to the American Civil Liberties Union after losing a lawsuit over the governor’s vetoes of court funding in 2019 and 2020.

Both years, Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed roughly $335,000 from the Alaska court system’s budget, saying that was the amount the state’s Medicaid program had paid for elective abortions. That was after the state Supreme Court had blocked attempts by the Legislature to stop state funds from being used for such procedures.

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The ACLU sued, saying the move violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause,  and won. Then-Superior Court Judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson ordered the governor to restore the funding, and the state did not appeal.

Dunleavy appointed Henderson to the Supreme Court in July, after a brief protest on the selection of nominees, and Henderson continued to oversee the veto lawsuit. On Monday, she settled a dispute over attorneys fees in the case.

According to the order Henderson issued Monday, the ACLU argued the state should pay its lawyers about $111,000, while the state argued the bill should’ve been closer to $53,000.

Henderson landed somewhere in the middle, ordering the state to pay $86,811.32.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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