GOVERNOR, CAN WE HAVE THAT CUP OF COFFEE?
By Richard J. Peterson
June 09, 2016
It’s time to sit down and have that cup of coffee and talk about whether the State intends to appeal the recent Alaska Supreme Court decision in State of Alaska v. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska to the United States Supreme Court.
In this case, the Court reached the unremarkable conclusion that Alaska tribal courts, which already handle custody, adoption, and paternity for tribal children, can also handle child support. Despite the Department of Law’s investment of five years, seventeen lawyers, and more than $175,000 to litigate the case, the Court’s decision was unanimous and upheld a 2011 decision by the Juneau Superior Court. How much more does the Administration want to invest in fighting Alaska’s own tribes ? and its own people? Would it not be a better use of time and resources to work together to provide quality child support services for children and families?
Since the State lost its case in superior court five years ago, the Alaska Child Support Services Division and tribal child support agencies have been working together to ensure parents meet their financial responsibilities to their children by providing reliable child support to families striving to make ends meet. Given our current budget shortfall, why would Governor Walker spend vanishing State resources to combat the cooperation that already exists between Alaska tribes and the Alaska Child Support Services Division?
And how much more money will the State throw at this non-problem? Will the Governor hire the same $900 per hour Washington D.C. law firm that the State frequently enlists to fight Alaska tribes? In 2010, the State spent almost $100,000 in an unsuccessful appeal to the United States Supreme Court in the Hogan v. Kaltag case, regarding tribal adoptions. In 2013, the State hired the same law firm and spent almost $200,000 to fight Alaska tribes in the State’s unsuccessful appeal in Alaska v. Sally Jewell (better known as the Katie John case). How many more hundreds of thousands of dollars will the Governor spend with nothing to show except for a further weakened relationship with Alaska’s tribes?
The State should stop wasting resources we don’t have on cases against its own citizens. Faced with budget cuts, the Department of Law can make smarter spending decisions than continuing to bleed money into a losing battle against tribal self-governance. If Governor Walker really wants to strengthen the State’s relationship with Alaska tribes, he should direct the Department of Law to stop the litigation, especially when working with tribes is really the best solution.
Governor Walker has until June 23rd to decide whether to appeal. Now is the time for the Administration to show its commitment to establishing a new direction in tribal relations is real. It is time to take this modest step forward. Can we have that cup of coffee, Governor?
Richard J. Peterson,
Received May - June 06, 2016 - Published June 09, 2016
Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:
Representations of fact and opinions in letters are solely those of the author.
E-mail your letters
& opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published letters become the property of SitNews.