Earlier this month, during a budget session in the Alaska House, Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla offered an important amendment to help grand juries exercise their broad constitutional powers under Article I, Section 8, of Alaska’s Constitution.

His amendment #1 to Amendment 135 proposed allocating one million dollars from the legislature’s operating budget to grand juries, specifically for the purpose of hiring independent special prosecutors to help advise them. The proposal would not have impacted any funding for the executive or judicial branches, or the PFD.

Eastman introduced his amendment as necessary to “make adequate provision for our grand juries to have the money and resources available to effectively fulfill” its power to investigate and report on matters of public concern.

Under his proposal, grand juries in each of Alaska’s four judicial districts would be entitled to spend up to $250,000 in the coming fiscal year to retain special prosecutors of their choosing. Eastman emphasized that spending these funds was not a requirement but would be at the discretion of the grand juries.

[Grand juries] retain the right to reject any advisors the Department of Law sends their way. In those instances, they need funds to hire their own advisors.

Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage was the only legislator who spoke in opposition to Eastman’s amendment. Josephson prefaced his remarks by saying he needed more time to look at it, but it soon became evident he didn’t have a good understanding of the independence of grand juries baked into our State Constitution.

Josephson opposed the amendment saying the executive branch provides “high ranking, skilled attorneys” to “guide” investigations. He noted the Department of Law was “accommodating” of grand jury investigations but didn’t acknowledge the right of grand juries to choose their own legal advisors. He concluded his remarks by urging his colleagues to join him in opposition.

Eastman’s ensuing response cut straight to the heart of the matter. He said, “what we are talking about is, who owns the grand jury?” 

Eastman explained, “We don’t find in our constitution the grand jury appearing under Article III, it’s not housed in the executive branch, we don’t find it housed in the judicial branch. That’s not the portion of our constitution that speaks to the grand jury. It’s in Article 1, separate from these other institutions, and so it should not be limited in its selection of a special prosecutor to someone that is employed by or hired by another branch of government. It is its own entity. It should have the discretion.”

Currently, many Alaskan citizens are objecting to the attorney general deciding which attorneys will “guide” the grand jury.

Eastman was 100% correct, and has the authority of the United States Supreme Court to back him up. Discussing the nature of a grand jury in its 1992 Williams opinion the Court stated, “the whole theory of its function is that it belongs to no branch of the institutional government, serving as a kind of buffer or referee between the government and the people.”

Like the legislative branch, grand juries are not subservient to the executive branch. They retain the right to reject any advisors the Department of Law sends their way. In those instances, they need funds to hire their own advisors.

I’m pretty sure Josephson would object if an attorney general decided which attorneys can “guide” the legislature. Currently, many Alaskan citizens are objecting to the attorney general deciding which attorneys will “guide” the grand jury. Especially when the grand jury wants to investigate the Department of Law or another part of the executive branch like the Office of Children’s Services. It’s a blatant conflict of interest.

For the past several years, Alaskans have seen what happens when grand juries try to investigate state corruption. Those investigations have been easily hijacked by attorney generals who control the employment of the attorneys they assign to the grand jury. The “high ranking attorneys” referenced by Josephson are particularly vulnerable to these conflicts. Obviously, they have a lot to lose if they try to stand solo against the governor or attorney general.

Unfortunately, the majority of the Alaska House sided with Josephson instead of Eastman and the amendment was voted down 33-7. The six representatives who supported Eastman’s proposal were Rep. Jamie Allard, Rep. Ben Carpenter, Rep. Julie Coulombe, Rep. George Rauscher, Rep. Frank Tomaszewski and Rep. Sarah Vance.

If you support an independent grand jury equipped with the tools to expose government negligence or corruption, contact our elected officials. I plan to send this article to each of the 33 representatives who voted no, asking if they will change their position and if not, why.

After Eastman’s amendment was rejected, he told his colleagues, “I can hope that we will take up this critical issue in other legislation.  I certainly stand on behalf of my constituents to be a ready and willing contributor to that discussion.”

The final passage of the budget, anticipated to be around 11 billion dollars, is likely at least a month away. One million dollars out of that budget is essentially a rounding error, a mere .00009091 of the total.

Judge Francis Hopkinson, a signor of the Declaration of Independence, called the grand jury “a body of truth and power inferior to none but the legislature itself.” Such a vital function of our democracy certainly deserves a lot more than one million dollars out of an eleven-billion-dollar budget. Urge your elected representatives to support funding of at least four million dollars, one for each judicial district.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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OPINION: 33 Alaska House members fail to grasp that grand juries are independent

David Ignell
David Ignell was born and raised in Juneau, where he currently resides. He holds a law degree from University of San Diego and formerly practiced as a licensed attorney in California. He has experience as a volunteer analyst for the California Innocence Project, and is currently a forensic journalist and author of a recent book on the Alaska Grand Jury.


  • John J Otness says:

    Thank You David Eastman…Tyranny breathing down our neck…

  • Mary says:

    Yes, a big thanks, Dave. Keep up the fight. God’s got your back.

  • Betty Jo says:

    Representative Eastman is proposing a solution. Justice for everyone should be based on truth, a fair trial, etc., NOT on the budget $$$$. Thank you Mr. Ignell for this article.

  • Ed Martin Jr says:

    Dave once again your spot on ! But what can you expect form a corrupted Government from top to bottom controlled by the Alaska Bar Assoc. & their members in all three branches of government . The ring leaders being past Supreme Court Justice Winfree & AG Taylor in cahoots on SCO 1993 & there after in the Grand Jury fallup in the Judge Murphy case & it’s conclusion…. On top of all of this, where accountability should protect those damaged NO STATUTORY PUBLIC OFFICIAL BONDS EXIST! Well it’s an election year & some running against incumbents have latched on to the Law & have committed to getting those PO Bonds required by LAW. I will not openly expose those individuals, as it’s their prerogative to campaign on that fact but I bet you , you will, see it pop up soon … Hallelujah !!! State Farm has issued such bonds & currently Scott Myers of the Anchorage City Assembly has the distinction of one fine Representative of “we the people ” for following the LAW. God bless this Man. With the grace of God others will follow suit! Liberty Ed Martin

  • Steve Peterson says:

    The Alaska House seems to grasp little about actual, Constitutional policy and procedure. And as for the GOP standing up for us, the just grasp for whatever the Dems throw down to them. There is nothing “grand” about the GOP. It seems its goal is to be absorbed into a uniparty.

  • Yakobi says:

    “33 members of the Alaska house”. The number 33 is highly symbolic in freemasonry. Oddly enough, last week a superior court judge ruled that state school funds cannot be used for basically anything other than public schools in AK. At the time the headlines read “ In his 33 page ruling, superior court judge”. Freemasonry is the veil for Lucifer. They have to show you who they are.

    • Friend of Humanity says:

      I had not thought about the number 33. Thanks for sharing this info. I agree that they are throwing this in our face. A big thank you to Rep Eastman for standing strong in your faith of our Almighty Heavenly Father and exposing this evil for what it really is.

  • Herman Nelson says:

    I agree with this. The state judicial system has a habit of pushing “evidence” to grand juries, DA’s who coach their witnesses, or ever-so-slightly shines the juries on to vote with the prosecution. The Alaska court system seems to think the cheap-o drug “field test kits” are 100% accurate. They are not. I wonder how many people were sentenced on a bad “field test kit”..? The state does not go the extra mile to make sure 100% without a doubt that the substance someone is being convicted on, is actually what it is and certified by a licensed chemist.

  • Pete Peterson says:

    Thank you David Ignell!

  • Sir Comrade says:

    Thank you Representative Eastman, and the six other Reps who voted for public integrity. Our state constitution has flaws, but they somehow got it right concerning the role of our grand jury. It is so clear that an eighth grader, or homeschooled fifth grader can likely understand the duty and power prescribed.

  • Sir Comrade says:

    ? I guess my comment didn’t meet muster

  • Sir Comrade says:

    sending thanks to David Eastman plus six other honorable Reps for efforts to restore integrity (you other 33 can look that word up in dictionary) to our government. AK constitution is clear as crystal on the grand jury.

  • Why Not? says:

    We need to appoint town Sherrifs to make us into deputies so we can go after this corrupted legislature and bypass these judges. Other states do this.

  • Cod says:

    Thx Mr Ignell, but I’m afraid that it’s worse than most can imagine. Our judges are already provably corrupt. We have our Supreme Court bypassing their policy committee to rewrite state statute. We have our DOL officials assisting the courts in these matters and lying to our legislators about how GJs operate. We have weak kneed legislators afraid to raise the issue of jury tampering by the courts and executive branch. And these are supposed to be our bestest and brightest. To be honest folks, we are screwed, blued, and tattood. None of these scoundrels will ever work for We The People. They only look after their Corporation!