For Immediate Release: December 19th, 2013
Senator Wielechowski to Introduce Legislation Protecting Alaskans Who Defend Our Rights
ANCHORAGE –Today Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) announced he will introduce legislation protecting Alaskans who sue the state to safeguard the rights of all Alaskans. These Alaskans are known as “public interest litigants.”
In 2003, former Governor Murkowski signed a law which restricts Alaskans’ ability to sue the state on behalf of their fellow citizens. The 2003 law allows winners of public interest litigation to collect attorney’s fees from those who lose, even if the losing party was simply defending the rights of all Alaskans. No other state has a comparable law. Under the proposed legislation, those who file frivolous lawsuits would still be liable for attorney fees.
“Alaskans who seek to protect our rights and defend against government overreach and intrusion should be applauded, not punished,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski. “The 2003 law is an attempt to scare those who dare to stand up to government. It runs counter to the intention of our Founding Fathers and every democratic principle, and must be repealed.”
Recently former First Lady Bella Hammond, who is 80, and constitutional drafter and former Senator Vic Fischer, 89, acted as public litigants in a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources. They joined two Native elders and a group of Native villages seeking to protect the headwaters of the world-class Bristol Bay fishery.
“Bella Hammond and Vic Fischer have spent their lives serving Alaska,” Wielechowski added. “The Governor’s recent pursuit of half a million dollars in legal fees is government overreach at its worst. Public interest litigants should be protected and not fearful of losing their homes and life savings for standing up for our rights. I call on Governor Parnell to stop trying to intimidate Alaskan heroes like Bella Hammond and Vic Fischer and instead to support my legislation to protect them and other brave Alaskans.”
For more information, contact Senator Wielechowski at (907) 242-1558.