How can a judge weigh a veto of court system funding?

A Superior Court in Anchorage is deciding whether to dismiss an American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska lawsuit claiming Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of nearly $335,000 from the state court system budget was unconstitutional, even retaliatory.

We wonder how that can be. How can a judge in the state court system rule on the constitutionality of a veto that affects that very same court system? How can a judge be expected to consider and rule on the question especially after the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court tut-tutted the veto in a roundabout fashion at a public gathering?

Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court Joel Bolger last month gave a blunt speech at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention in which he talked about criminal justice system funding and attacks on the courts’ independence.

If the case were somehow to get to the state’s high court, we wonder how it would fare.

The ACLU of Alaska lawsuit follows Dunleavy’s cutting the court system’s budget by an amount his administration said was equal to state abortion funding. That, after the state’s high court struck down a law and regulation defining medically necessary abortions for Medicaid funding.

Inexplicably, the administration said after the veto that the “only branch of government that insists on state funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court.”

Dunleavy has the constitutional power to veto. That is irrefutable. Suggesting the veto was payback shows perhaps a lack of circumspection. In either case, we are left to wonder how Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson, a jurist in the court system affected by the veto, can adjudicate anything about that veto.

With the conflict of interest so obvious, none of this bolsters public confidence in the courts, something the state can ill afford.

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