SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Court affirms free speech rights of API doctors fired by Dunleavy Administration

In sweeping victory, the Court says the Dunleavy Administration violated the First Amendment and free speech clause of Alaska Constitution. 


October 11, 2021
Monday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - The Federal District Court in Alaska ruled Friday that the Dunleavy Administration violated the constitutional rights of two Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) doctors by firing them after they refused to pledge their allegiance to the Governor’s political agenda. In December 2018, just after being elected, Governor Dunleavy demanded that all at-will State employees tender their resignations and show affirmative support for his political agenda. Doctors Anthony Blanford and John Bellville refused to resign, believing their allegiance was first to their patients and making such a pledge would violate their duties as doctors.

In what the ACLU of Alaska calls a sweeping victory, the court wrote in summary judgment: “It was made clear that by submitting a resignation, the employee was actually signaling a commitment to work with the new governor and on behalf of his agenda. This agenda was later described by Mr. Babcock to include support for a full statutory PFD, the repeal of Senate Bill 91, reorganization of government agencies, pro-life issues, and a balanced state budget. Plaintiffs did not want to align themselves with these political priorities to the extent they involved funding cuts and hiring freezes that would detrimentally affect the functioning of API, and therefore they did not submit their resignations. They consequently were fired for this exercise of their associational rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

“Our clients took brave lawful steps to protect vulnerable Alaskans; that is honorable beyond measure and defines what it means to be a dedicated public servant. Despite their commitment to the people who need them, the Dunleavy Administration unlawfully retaliated against them for their refusal to politicize the mental health care they provided,” ACLU of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff said. “But we never doubted the court would rule in the name of justice and to protect the free speech rights of our clients, and all state employees.”

Quoting a news release from ACLU of Alaska, in December 2018, Governor Dunleavy took office and began demanding letters of resignation and loyalty pledges from at-will employees with the help of former Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock. Both Dunleavy and Babcock made it clear that refusing to toe their political line would cost people their jobs. Out of principle, Doctors Blanford and Bellville refused. As such, they were terminated. 

On behalf of the doctors, the ACLU of Alaska filed suit against Dunleavy, Babcock, and the State of Alaska in 2019. 

Friday’s summary judgment declares victory for the ACLU of Alaska on all arguments. 

On the Web:

Blanford, et al. v. Dunleavy, et al.
10/08/21 Order on Motions for Summary Judgment

Edited By Mary Kauffman, SitNews

Source of News:

ACLU of Alaska

Representations of fact and opinions in comments posted are solely those of the individual posters and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.

Send a letter to the

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2021
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews are considered protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper freelance writers and subscription services.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.