Troopergate case on the fast track

Hat tip to my friend Illusory Tenant for cluing me in on the latest developments in what promises to be the most entertaining law-related story of 2008.

Several weeks back, Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate. And oh, what long, strange few weeks it’s been.

At first, Palin “energized” the ticket. Why? Well, that’s hard to say. It’s sort of true that she stopped the infamous bridge to nowhere, but she KEPT THE FUCKING MONEY, so it isn’t as if she saved federal taxpayers anything. She beat an incumbent Republican governor in the primary, but the guy was, after all, quite possibly the most corrupt sumbitch who ever lived. She’s a young earth creationist who also believes that the Founding Fathers were responsible for the Pledge of Allegiance, “under God” included. She favors forcing 12-year-olds impregnated by their rapist fathers to carry their blessed bundles of joy to full term.

But never mind any of that shit. She did in fact energize the ticket.

It couldn’t last forever, though, and eventually the campaign had to let her talk publicly. The result: everyone knows, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should know, that Gov. Palin is both breathtakingly stupid and a pathological liar.

John McCain is a very old man who’s suffered numerous bouts with melanoma. If elected, there’s virtually no chance that he’ll survive an entire term. Thus, a McCain victory pretty much ensures a Palin presidency sometime within the next four years.

And McCain’s chances likely got a shot in the arm on Thursday when Gov. Palin debated Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden. “Palin won the debate”, you ask? Of course not. However, she refrained from urinating on her own shoes and avoided hosing down the podium with explosive diarrhea. That, by current Republican standards, was a resounding victory.  The fact that Palin steered clear of catastrophic self-embarrassment promised to stanch the bleeding caused by her many recent public displays of idiocy.

But Gov. Palin has an annoying problem, a problem that’s generally been festering just below the surface during the methamphetamine-addled clown car ride that is the past few weeks.

Alaskans Molly McCann and Mike Wooten, an Alaska state trooper, had an ugly marriage that apparently devolved into an even uglier divorce. Ms. McCann, as fate would have it, is Sarah Palin’s sister. A series of emails in which Palin trash-talks Wooten to his superiors is readily available on teh intart00b. A lenghty series of articles detailing the whole mess is available here courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News. To make a long story short, it’s alleged that Gov. Palin took her personal feud with Wooten to Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monagan. Palin allegedly fired Monegan because he refused to take action against Wooten.

In late July the Legislative Council, a bipartisan group composed of members of the Alaska state senate and state house of representatives, voted to spend as much as $100,000 on an independent investigator to review the propriety of Monegan’s firing. A retired prosecutor named Steve Branchflower is heading the investigation as Special Counsel to the state legislature.

The state’s Department of Law hired personal counsel to represent Palin in the investigation. Atty. Thomas Van Flein, who normally makes his living defending bog companies in employment lawsuits and insurance industry interests in medical malpractice and other professional liability cases, is representing the governor at the bargain basement rate of $185 per hour.

The McCain campaign jumped into the fray with gusto, issuing a rambling, internally contradictory statement on August 30 in defense of Palin. The state legislature issued subpoenas. Todd Palin, Sarah’s husband and snowmobiling douchebag,* announced publicly that he would disregard his subpoena and questioned the legitimacty of the legislature’s ongoing investigation.

On September 25 the state attorney general, acting on behalf of seven state employees subpoenaed to appear before the state senate’s judiciary committee, filed suit (pdf, 11 pages) to quash the subpoenas. A couple of days thereafter five Republican state legislators filed suit to shut down the investigation entirely. The lawsuits were combined and promptly dismissed (pdf, 11pages) by a state Superior Court judge who ruled that many of the claims involved internal legislative processes over which the courts have no control, and that the justiciable claims lacked merit.

Alaska counsel for the five Republican legislators is Kevin G. Clarkson, a fairly prominent right-wing Christian legal activist who’s made something of a name for himself doing litigation for the uberconservative Alliance Defense Fund. When Christian right activist group Focus on the Family became interested in Palin back in 2006, they went to Clarkson for information on her. It’s entirely possible that FoF grand wazoo James Dobson, who once claimed that Satan, driving a black Porsche, chased his son around the streets of Denver, Colorado, had outcome-determinative input into Palin’s selection.

Also representing the Republican legislators is Texas-based Christian right law firm and font of spurious litigation Liberty Legal Institute. Kelly Shackelford, LLI’s chief counsel, was recently on Dobson’s radio show blabbering effusively about how Gov. Palin was the answer to many a Christian right prayer. You’ll find information on LLI and its involvement with the Alaska troopergate litigation here courtesy of Right Wing Watch.

Also involved for the Republicans is silk stocking megafirm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a Republican’s best friend in times of lego-electoral need.

Anyhoo, the case is now before the Alaska Supreme Court. On motion of the Republican legislators, the Court has agreed to expedite its consideration of the case rather substantially. Briefing will be completed by Tuesday, October 7 and oral argument will take place the following day at 3:00 p.m. AKDT (7:00 p.m. EDT). A report on the legislative investigation is currently scheduled for release on 10/10, so you can goddamn jolly well expect a decision on 10/9. You can keep track of all the Court goings-on here under the Keller v. French heading.

As an aside, I see that the managing partner of the law firm representing the Democratic legislators is a guy I worked for in Anchorage during my second-year summer clerkship in law school. Go get ’em, Bill.

*Please forgive the redundancy.

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  • illusory tenant  On October 4, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Under normal circumstances, John McCain doesn’t want any judges who “legislate from the bench,” but by Thursday morning, he’ll be praying for at least three of them. Divining justiciability from all those political questions in the Superior Court’s order is going to require a close encounter with activism of the arrogant kind.

  • genghishitler  On October 4, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Divining justiciability from all those political questions in the Superior Court’s order is going to require a close encounter with activism of the arrogant kind.

    Or, as St. John the Double Talking would no doubt put it in the event of a win, “commitment to the rule of law of the highest order.”


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