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Alaska Supreme Court to hear appeal in trooper case

Six lawmakers ask the panel to halt a probe into actions by Palin.

October 04, 2008|From the Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — Alaska's Supreme Court agreed late Friday to hear six state lawmakers' emergency appeal asking it to halt an investigation into abuse-of-power allegations against Gov. Sarah Palin before the findings are released next week.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in Anchorage.

The independent investigator conducting the probe plans to turn over his conclusions by next Friday to the Legislative Council, the body that authorized it. The six Republican lawmakers, who are not on the Legislative Council, contend the investigation is being manipulated to damage Palin before election day on Nov. 4.

The probe is looking into whether Palin, who is the Republican vice presidential candidate, and others pressured Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire a state trooper who was involved in a contentious divorce from Palin's sister, and then fired Monegan when he wouldn't dismiss the trooper. Palin says Monegan was ousted over budget disagreements.

Five Republican lawmakers sued to block the investigation or remove its overseers and were later joined in their lawsuit by a sixth legislator.

Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski dismissed the lawsuit Thursday, saying the Legislature has the ability to investigate the circumstances surrounding the firing of a public officer the lawmakers had confirmed.

The six legislators then requested the expedited appeal so that a decision can be made by close of business Thursday.

Defense attorney Peter Maassen said that the Legislature is free to conduct an investigation as it sees fit and that Michalski's ruling confirmed the separation-of-power principles. An emergency appeal is unwarranted, he said, because by Thursday the investigation will have been completed; all that will remain will be to make the findings public.

"There's been no time in history that a court has suppressed the outcome of a legislative investigation," Maassen said.

Until she became Sen. John McCain's running mate, Palin had pledged to cooperate with the probe.

She has said through her lawyer that she would only cooperate with a separate, unbiased investigation. It would be conducted in secret and could last for years.

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