On March 14, the night before statewide courthouse sit-in protests begin, a resolution will be introduced by Kenai Borough Assembly members Bill Elam and Cindy Ecklund to oppose recent actions taken by the Alaska Supreme Court that many view as a violation of Alaska Grand Jury powers to investigate and indict corrupt government officials – including judges.
The very next day, March 15, grand jury rights advocates will launch a statewide courthouse sit in at 8 a.m. to protest the Supreme Court’s actions and urge justices to rescind their new rules restricting grand jury investigations. Sit-ins are scheduled at courthouses in Kenai, Anchorage, Palmer, Fairbanks, Nenana, Juneau and Prince of Wales Island.
The proposed Kenai resolution requests that the Alaska Legislature hold hearings to investigate the Supreme Court, claiming that the justices’ actions conflict with the authority granted to citizen grand juries in Article 1, Section 8 of the Alaska Constitution.
The resolution argues that public welfare and safety are protected by the rule of law and equal protection under the law, and that the judiciary branch should be an impartial guardian of the law. It also notes that it is in the best interest of the state to provide a transparent process and legislative oversight pursuant to the provisions of the Alaska Constitution. If passed, the resolution will be provided to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the State Legislature.
The Kenai resolution begins by noting that Alaska Constitution plainly states: “The power of grand juries to investigate and make recommendations concerning the public welfare or safety shall never be suspended.”
Further, the resolution observes that Alaska Statute 12.40.030 explicitly states, “The grand jury shall inquire into all crimes committed or triable within the jurisdiction of the court and present them to the court. The grand jury shall have the power to investigate and make recommendations concerning the public welfare or safety.”
The resolution goes on to note that on Dec. 1, 2022, the Supreme Court issued order 1993, which has resulted in public outcry against a rule that appears to conflict with the constitutionally guaranteed rights of grand juries to investigate public officials, including judges.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
“…if there exist allegations that bias or systemic corruption have led to improperly restricting substantive rights without due process or public notice, then it is incumbent upon the Legislature to gather further information or evidence through the public hearing process,” the resolution states. “…such an investigation appropriately reflects the separation of powers doctrine, and is an oversight function of the Alaska State Legislature…”
Given that all Kenai Borough Assembly members have taken an oath to protect and defend the State Constitution, the proposed resolution affirms that the assembly “supports the need for a mechanism for grand juries to investigate and make recommendations concerning the public welfare or safety pursuant to … the Constitution of the State of Alaska.”
The resolution ends by noting that numerous Kenai Borough residents have raised concerns about the Supreme Court’s restrictions on grand juries.
“The allegations are serious, involve constitutional rights, and merit Legislative hearings to gather evidence in a public forum,” it states. “It is in the best interest of the State to provide a transparent process and Legislative oversight pursuant to the provisions of the Alaska Constitution.”
— For more information about this issue, click here.
— For detailed information about how the protest will work, click here.
— For information on how to participate in the March 15 courthouse sit-ins, contact Alaska Grand Jurors Association at (907) 398-6403 or visit the group’s website at alaskagrandjurorsassociation.org.
For information about scheduled sit-ins, contact the following people via text message.
— Kenai, David Haeg (907) 398-6403
— Anchorage, Sharon Kay (907) 947-3382
— Palmer, Holly Sheldon Lee (907) 232-4063
— Fairbanks, Kelly Nash (907) 388-9710
— Juneau, Betty Jo Moore (907) 738-8210