Palin Employees, But Not Husband, Agree to Testify in Legislative Probe

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg today said seven employees of the office of Gov. Sarah Palin will honor the subpooenas issued by the legislative committee investigating whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power in seeking to have then-public safety manager Walt Monegan fire her brother-in-law. Colberg's announcement follows last week's court ruling refusing to toss the legislative probe.

The Legislature's investigator, retired state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, is expected to complete his report by Friday into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power by trying to force the firing of a state trooper involved in a child custody battle with her sister.

What about Todd Palin? He's still resisting the legislative subpoena, agreeing instead to an interview by the personnel board investigator. The personnel board is under control of the Executive branch. [More...]

Republicans are appealing last week's court decision approving the legislative probe to the Alaska Supreme Court, which could result in delaying the report.

That release could be blocked by the Alaska Supreme Court, which will hear arguments next week in an emergency appeal by five Republican lawmakers trying to halt Branchflower's report. An Anchorage judge recently dismissed that lawsuit along with an attempt by several of the governor's aides to quash subpoenas issued for their testimony in the Legislature's investigation.

How typically Republican is this?

The two investigators could interview Todd Palin together or Branchflower could use Petumenos' interview in his own investigation, [Palin lawyer] Van Flein said, though Branchflower is scheduled to end his probe at least a week before the planned interview.

More on why Palin wants the Personnel Board to take charge:

Sarah Palin originally agreed to cooperate with the Legislature's investigation. But after she joined the GOP ticket, she said the probe had become tainted by politics and filed a complaint against herself with the personnel board, which she says has the proper authority to investigate ethics allegations against the governor.

The governor has the power to fire any member of the three-member panel for cause...

The Republican lawmakers who brought the challenge to the legislative investigation have appealed and asked for a ruling before October 10 (pdf), the date the legislative report is due to be released. Lawyers for the legislative probe filed this response (pdf.)The Alaska Supreme Court order granting a hearing on the Republican lawmakers' motion for emergency relief is here. (pdf) It was entered by a single justice. The hearing will be on Wednesday.

More TrooperGate documents are here.

Here's an Anchorage Daily News video with Palin's contradictory statements about the probe.

< Waxman Wants to Work | VP Moderator Gwen Ifill on MTP: "Palin Blew Me Off" >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Troopergate Investigation (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by MoYou on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:02:07 AM EST
    I believe that Sarah Palin's Troopergate investigation is not looking good for her and Sarah knows that she is in very hot water and when the report is released Friday that the Republican ticket will have a very hard choice because the report will hurt the ticket and will have to sack Sarah Palin. I would be really really happy to see Sarah Palin leave as I am a Democrat and think Sarah Palin is a very dangerous woman and way way over her head. Sarah Palin is incompetent and is never a good choice for VP or president. The only reason Todd Palin wont cooperate with the investigation is because he knows that Sarah overused her powers. I can't wait for this week to see what happens but I don't think the report is at all good for her!!!      

    I would suspect that Todd Palin (none / 0) (#1)
    by white n az on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:34:56 PM EST
    is playing a stalling game because he really doesn't have any legal standing to ignore the subpoena.

    So I think he will agree to the subpoena right at the moment that Branchflower is ready to turn in his report to the legislature in order to further delay it.

    The curious thing is that Branchflower is scheduled to turn in his report on Friday but it would seem that doing these interviews will set that timetable back some. I'm not sure how much more information will come from these interviews - not likely anything more explosive than than the statements given in interviews of Wilkes and Grasso.

    It may be that the next shoe to fall would be Frank Bailey as they clearly will want to scapegoat him. He was the one who actively applied pressure to others and was the one on the audio tape.

    I am gathering that the Palin's have engendered some hostility from their fellow republicans and will have hell to pay for that after she fails to become vice-president.

    I thought a spouse was under no legal (none / 0) (#7)
    by JavaCityPal on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:35:27 AM EST
    obligation to testify. Has that changed?

    Well (none / 0) (#8)
    by Steve M on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:58:29 AM EST
    In most jurisdictions, communications between one spouse and another are privileged in the same way that attorney-client or doctor-patient communications are privileged.

    But the rule that says a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against their partner is a separate matter, and that rule has been overturned in a lot of jurisdictions.


    Todd Palin (none / 0) (#9)
    by jsj20002 on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 09:24:34 AM EST
    Todd Palin is a subject of the inquiry as he may have urged a state employee or employees to violate state law.  He may not be forced to testify against his wife, but as to himself, he either testifies or "takes the fifth".  

    Delay Delay Delay (none / 0) (#2)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:35:16 PM EST
    The question now is will Branchflower be able to depose these witnesses in time to still release his report on October 10th? On the face of it, it doesn't sound like it. Yet if he releases his findings without their testimony, Palinbots will say the report is incomplete.

    I think this was a neat little trick by Callaghan, excuse me, Colberg.

    Delay? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Belswyn on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:54:59 PM EST
    It would seem to me that these kinds of delay will only move the release date closer to the election and therefore not be helpful to McCain/Palin. I thought the release date was moved up to help them as it would blow over (theoretically).

    This... (none / 0) (#4)
    by G Davis on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:36:31 PM EST
    This is a pretty convoluted subject and hopefully Branchflower will release his report in clear, concise language...no matter which way he finds.

    This isn't just about national politics, it's about the fate of the poor Alaskans that are the ball in this political ping pong game.

    Is this woman qualified and should she be entrusted with ANY governmental position is the real question.

    Good luck to Branchflower, before and after the report.

    Bloomberg (none / 0) (#5)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:57:13 PM EST
    News is reporting that Branchflower's aides are trying to set up the depositions ASAP, apparently they still want to get the report out by Oct. 10. Whether that in fact will happen is still unclear.

    tell all (none / 0) (#10)
    by sweetieblue on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 11:00:19 AM EST
    that what im talking about if that was a plan jane they would be in jail for not responding to the courts now it say they all have something to hide she want to tell the truth to the american  people why its a problem with giving up the dirt on her staff and hubbie they all know something why do her husband have so much to say he needs a job and stop following her like a lap puppie he is

    well (none / 0) (#11)
    by connecticut yankee on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 11:03:03 AM EST
    If McCain-Palin had a brain they would get this out of the way ASAP. Better now than two weeks from now.

    Todd Palin has agreed to cooperate next week with the other investigation, conducted by the personel board (answers to Palin).

    The briefs on the appeal are due (none / 0) (#12)
    by Christy1947 on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 01:10:03 PM EST
    tomorrow and will be a turgid riot.

    Most of the points in the appeal papers turn on whether the legislature is authorized to create the commission, and the trial judge  quoted the statutes and said that the various ways the legislature exercised the power the statutes give it were for the legislature to determine. Even the want of due process claim relates to whether the proper legislative committee is doing the investigation. Even the claim of political conflict of interest is one which by statute is relegated to the legisltive committee on Ethics, according to the opinion.

    Given the grounds for the appeal, the fact that the hearing on appeal is scheduled for Wednesday, before the stay expires and that the decision is promised before the stay expires, suggests that either there is a simple legal answer to this, one way or the other. Otherwise, the appeal would not be completed within a single week. The decision will be interesting for those who can tolerate the dull, but the plaintiffs are limited to the grounds they gave, and to the materials presented to the original court.

    There is ONE case cited in all the papers so far, and I will be back after I find it.

    Turgid riot II (none / 0) (#13)
    by Christy1947 on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 03:20:35 PM EST
    the Court papers for this are found in the Alaska court system website under the case name Keller v. French, case no. JAN-08-10489CI. The cases discussed are in the Alaska Court Reports website, ask for it by name.

    The appeal and the original case which pitched out the Palin via legislative surrogates' investigation complaints, presented itself as a Motion to Dismiss. For those who live wiser lives than lawyers, a Motion to Dismiss is a motion addressed to the initial complaint in a litigation, and demands the court to determine whether the complaint pleads enough on its face, that is, when read literally, to make anyone go to the effort of in fact proceeding with the litigation. Generally a motion to dismiss considers only the complaint and whatever the parties lay on in the moving papers or opposition, and the wise litigator throws his evidentiary facts into his affidavits on the motion or as attachments to the complaint and makes sure he files a brief on the motion about the validity of his legal grounds. Since the plaintiffs asked for emergency handling of their injunction application, it is conceivable but bad practice for them not to have made sure their facts and legal arguments were in the papers, and poor form to say that after they moved for quick handling, it resulted in their not having the opportunity to do something; it was their choice to go through this in fast forward.  One of the complaints on appeal is that the judge on a motion to dismiss did not hold a hearing and take witnesses from the appellants. This is not usually what a motion to dismiss is supposed to do, although there may well be argument. I don't give great odds on this particular claim being accepted.

    What the decision said was as a matter of law, the case was not justiciable, not one a court should entertain, as it improperly infringed on the internal operations of a cognate branch of government, the legislature. There is one leading case in Alaska on this, Malone v. Meekins, and only three others which I found. The critical language here in Malone Meekins is language which says that except in exceptional circumstances such as  where "the rights of a person not a member of the legislature" are affected by the way the legislature does its internal business, disputes about whether the legislature violated its rules or statutes applicable to it is not justiciable.  I have only found one case considering this language, where someone not a member of the legislature got the Malone case cited. (Four cases counting Malone in which the issue has arisen). Malone was a case which turned on the procedures the legislature used to remove a Speaker. Two were versions of open meeting issues.

    The third case was Van Brunt v. State of Alaska, in which the Appellant was convicted of drunk driving, and contended that he could not be convicted because of irregularities in the enactment process  of the statute under which he was convicted. He lost on appeal In that case, the Court said if a certain rule involved the rights of others as related to how a statute was amended, that rule would have to be read liberally.

    The grounds for emergency appeal by the six legislative surrogates for Palin  specifically cited the vice presidential campaign and the possible effect of the issuance of the report on that campaign, and asserted an Alaska Constitutional right, Article I sec. 7 which grants to Alaskans a "right to fair and just treatment in the conduct of legislative investigations." So far, so good. Constitutional violations are bad. However, the appeal claims that what denies fair and just treatment is the failure of the legislature to follow the statutes, rules and regulations which the legislature has enacted to apply in legislative investigations. It appears but is  not so stated in the papers that in some manner the investigation is claimed to improperly 'affect' the 'rights' of the third party, but does not state what that right affected is. The statutory provisions cited are the mechanical rules by which the legislature operates, and no specific statute or violation is enumerated in the appeal. A form of hail mary to the appeals court saying there's a violation of the statutes in there somewhere.   Hello Malone v. Meekins. I see in the papers no factual claim as to what 'rights' of one not a member of the legislature are in fact affected, other than the effect on the November election.

    This is where the problem is. The only factual  effect which appellants cite as affecting a person not a member of the legislature is the possible effect of the final report on the Vice Presidential race, because of its timing, constituting an "October surprise," and remarks of Legislator French that the report may have an effect on the campaign. There are no claims of improper conduct of the investigation itself, and the subpoena validation was not appealed. The statement of grounds for appeal, not for that in emergency charge that Mr. French improperly conducted the investigation with the intent of affecting the November 4 election.  That's it. The court below found as a fact no violation of the 'fair and just' provision without discussing the  factual basis for the finding.

    Note that the investigation was authorized on July 28, a month before the nomination.

    The other appeal grounds include misinterpreting Malone v. Meekis, various claims which seem to be that the legislature does not have the power to investigate "abuses of power and/or improper actions by the executive branch," and a possible removal of a governor by reason of statutory provisions, and that all rules must be followed strictly when  not the 'rights' of third parties are involved, but where a third party is involved in what is being investigated or is impacted by what is being done, without reference to any 'rights' of that person.

    IMHO the litigators pushing the appeal are praying loudly for the court to find anything at all to delay or derail and a desire by judges to do a Bush v. Gore for the good of the GOP, and they have darned little to do it with. there are no AK cases which I found which limit the right of the legislature to investigate because of electoral consequences on those investigated. And nowhere in the appellate papers did the appellants claim there was no factual basis for the investigation.

    The AG's refusal to appeal the subpoena validations and his providing of at least seven of the witness sought, this very day, also bodes ill for this appeal. If he thought as a matter of law, and he is the designated thinker for the state of Alaska, that the investigation is illegal, he should have appealed, and not provided the witnesses under subpoena. That he did what he did suggests something he does not want to have to defend in this appeal.