It looks like Sarah Palin’s legal strategy in the Trooper-Gate investigation may not hold much water.
In a complaint filed this week with the state Attorney General, Palin’s lawyer argued that only the state personnel board — whose three members are appointed by the governor — has jurisdiction over ethics complaints. The lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, asserted that unless the legislature’s investigation were called off and the matter handed over to the personnel board, Palin would not be made available for her deposition.
But an expert we spoke to shot down that argument. John Havelock, a former Alaska Attorney General, told TPMmuckraker: “The investigative power of the legislature is plenary.” In other words, the Alaska legislature can investigate whatever it likes. Said Havelock of Van Flein’s argument “It’s not likely to be persuasive to a court.” That opinion was echoed by several other Alaska lawyers that TPMmuckraker spoke to.
Havelock, a Democrat, added that the legislature could voluntarily choose to hand over the investigation. But is has shown no sign of making that choice. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat who heads the bipartisan committee overseeing the probe, responded to Van Flein’s filing by telling the Anchorage Daily News that the investigation would go ahead as planned.
It’s likely, of course, that Van Flein’s argument isn’t designed to ultimately hold up on the merits, but rather to drag out the investigation. That impression was re-inforced yesterday when a lawyer for ex-Palin aide Frank Bailey abruptly cancelled Bailey’s scheduled deposition. The lawyer today cited uncertainty over the jurisdictional issue as a reason for the cancellation.