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Judge weighs whether to dismiss veto lawsuit

JUNEAU (AP) — A judge is considering whether to dismiss a lawsuit by a civil liberties group saying Gov. Mike Dunleavy's veto of nearly $335,000 from the state court system budget was unconstitutional and retaliatory.

Attorneys for the state contend the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is asking the court to do what it complains Dunleavy did and interfere with a co-equal branch of government.

In arguments Tuesday in Anchorage, Assistant Attorney General Jessica Leeah said the case is political. She also questioned whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring it.

Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson did not immediately rule.

Dunleavy, a Republican, cut from the court budget an amount the administration said was commensurate to state funding for abortions following an Alaska Supreme Court decision striking down a law and regulation seeking to define what constitutes medically necessary abortions for Medicaid funding.

The administration, in explaining the cut, wrote that the "only branch of government that insists on State funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court."

Stephen Koteff, an attorney for the ACLU of Alaska, called the veto an abuse of power and an "explicit attack on the court's independence."

Koteff argued the court must act in this case and allow the case to proceed.

"Not acting, your honor, invites further retaliation," he said. "Not acting sends a message that the court system can be cowed."

The plaintiffs in the case, along with ACLU of Alaska, are Bonnie Jack and John Kauffman. The lawsuit seeks an order restoring the funding to the court budget.

The lawsuit is among a number of cases that have been filed against the administration.