ANCHORAGE The Alaska Legislature can sue to challenge the plan that redraws the state's political boundaries, a Superior Court judge said Friday.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner ruled that the Legislature would be allowed as a plaintiff despite missing a deadline for filing the lawsuit. But Rindner also made clear that other parties could file a motion to have the Legislature dismissed from the case.
The attorney for the Alaska Redistricting Board, Philip R. Volland, said he will do that next week.
Rindner is expected to rule on the Legislature's participation when attorneys gather again Oct. 19.
The state's legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years based on the latest U.S. census. The Alaska Constitution says any qualified voter may sue in Superior Court within 30 days of the final adoption of the plan, to correct errors.
Nine lawsuits have been filed by communities and Republican leaders objecting to the new plan, released in June. Rindner consolidated the suits and ordered the trial to start in January.
The Alaska Legislative Council, a committee of lawmakers who act for the Legislature when it's not in session, voted along party lines last month to join the lawsuits.
The chairman of the council, Rep. Joe Green, an Anchorage Republican, said new districts favor Democrats and would force 20 Republican incumbents to run against each other.
Attorney Kenneth Eggers argued the Legislature's case Friday. He said the Legislature should be allowed to be a full participant in the case because it has the same legal claims and seeks the same remedy as the other plaintiffs.
Volland said allowing the Legislature to intervene would be unprecedented. He said that branch of government already had participated in the process by appointing two of the five members of the redistricting board.
He said the Legislature is not a qualified voter and as a body it is unaffected by redistricting. "Protecting incumbency is not a function of redistricting," Volland said.
Judge Rindner also ruled that nine individual Alaska Natives and two Native organizations could intervene as defendants.
Attorney Susan Orlansky represents Doyon Ltd., Interior Alaska's Native regional corporation, Tanana Chiefs Conference, the nonprofit social services organization serving the Doyon region, and individuals Walter Soboleff of Tenakee Springs, Robin Renfroe, a vice president of Doyon, Richard Glenn of Barrow, Steve Ginnis, president of TCC, Walter Johnson of Yakutat, Dewey Skan of Klawock, Teresa Nelson, a Cook Inlet Region Inc. shareholder from Anchorage, and Gail Schubert, a Bering Straits Native Corp. shareholder from Anchorage.
"They are satisfied with the board's plan," Orlansky said. "They rejected all the challenges that the different plaintiff groups have brought."
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