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AG nominee urges challenges to 'federal encroachments'

Michael Geraghty talks state's rights in confirmation hearing

Posted: March 1, 2012 - 1:10am
Appointted Attorney General Michael Geraghty speaks to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The committee advanced Gov. Sean Parnell's pick for attorney general to a confirmation vote.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Appointted Attorney General Michael Geraghty speaks to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The committee advanced Gov. Sean Parnell's pick for attorney general to a confirmation vote.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s nominee for the position of attorney general got a warm reception from legislators Wednesday during a confirmation hearing, suggesting the long-time Fairbanks attorney will have little difficulty winning confirmation from the full Legislature.

Michael Geraghty, 59, said he’s looking forward to working on cases important to Alaska, including fighting what he called “federal encroachment” on Alaska’s rights.

That’s a key part of the Parnell administration’s stance, including fighting Endangered Species Act listings in Alaska and other actions.

Before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and in other legislative testimony, Geraghty talked of his interest in fighting those battles on behalf of the state, and hopefully getting past the “somewhat liberal” 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and into a “somewhat sympathetic” U.S. Supreme Court.

Geraghty said the polar bear endangered species listing action is based on modeling of the future effects of global warming, and questioned the validity of the science behind it.

“I mean, who can tell 100 years out,” he said. “It just boggles the mind.”

He called global warming itself a controversial subject, and said the listing process had “gotten away from good science.”

Geraghty on Wednesday defended a decision not to continue state involvement in the case of Jim Wild, who was arrested following a Yukon River confrontation with federal authorities.

The Fairbanks News-Miner described Wild as a “crusty 71-year old who cursed out National Park Service Rangers.”

Geraghty said he was still interested in establishing the state’s control of navigable waters in conservation areas under the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, but that the Wild case was not a “clean” case on which to mount an appeal as Wild had some “behavior issues.”

“There were some disputed issues that clouded to some extent the ANILCA issues, the issues that were of concern to the state,” Geraghty said.

The state will pursue its interests in asserting control of navigable waters in conservation areas with other cases, he said.

Geraghty has described his philosophy as “looking for vehicles to attack and resist this encroachment.”

Almost no gubernatorial appointments are rejected by the Legislature, and the confirmation process had become almost routine until a few years ago when then-Gov. Sarah Palin drew controversy with her choice for the AG’s slot, Wayne Anthony Ross.

Ross made history in what turned out to be the closing days of the Palin administration when a Legislature dominated by Republicans rejected the Republican governor’s appointment to the state’s top law enforcement position. Ross was the first nominee to Alaska’s attorney general post to be refused confirmation.

Geraghty has so far received mostly praise from legislators, especially those advocating for an aggressive state role in challenging federal actions.

Prior to being named attorney general in January, Geraghty’s law firm worked for the state Personnel Board investigating ethics complaints.

One of those that has been made public was his recommendation to dismiss a claim of an ethics violation stemming from a state press release announcing Palin’s selection as running mate for John McCain.

Confirmations are generally taken up in the last days of the legislative sessions by the full House and Senate.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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