Former Alaska state lawyer sues after being fired for not signing governor’s “pledge of loyalty”

Former assistant public advocate Kelly Parker filed the lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court against Governor Mike Dunleavy, his former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock, and the state. (iStock)
A Fairbanks lawyer who used to work for the state has filed a lawsuit, saying she was fired after refusing to pledge her loyalty to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Former assistant public advocate Kelly Parker filed the lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court on Oct. 8, against Dunleavy, his former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock, and the state.

Babcock wrote a message to many state workers last November, requiring them to submit resignation letters. He later said that workers who wrote in their letters that they wanted to continue to work for the state would send the message that they wanted to work on the administration’s agenda.

Parker wrote a letter to Dunleavy in response, saying that pledging loyalty to him would be a conflict of interest, since the state brought cases against her clients. She represented low-income criminal defendants, children in delinquency matters and parents and children in child-in-need-of-aid cases.

She wrote that assistant public advocates like her would have a conflict of interest if they could be fired without cause, or for disagreeing with “the State’s ‘agenda.’”

Parker did not agree to a recorded interview. In an emailed statement, she wrote, “This suit is about ensuring this wrong is not allowed to happen again in the future, and allowing current indigent defense attorneys in this state to zealously represent their clients and attend to their ethical duties without fear of retribution.”

33 minutes’ notice

Babcock gave Parker 33 minutes notice before she was fired, at the moment Dunleavy was sworn in.

“Because of this extremely short notice, I was unable to adequately prepare my cases for transition to a new attorney or speak with any of my clients about what was happening,” Parker wrote in the email. “It broke my heart to know what my clients endured because of the incoming governor’s rash action.”

Parker is seeking a judgment that the state violated her constitutional free speech and association rights, an injunction against similar state actions against assistant public advocates in the future, and damages.

Dunleavy, Babcock and the state were sued by another lawyer and two doctors in January after they also lost their jobs after declining to submit the required resignation letters. Their cases are in federal court.

A spokesperson for the Department of Law declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian gov directs $1.8M to legal support for Nunavut’s women and children, CBC News

Finland: Police in Arctic Finland overstretched, says retiring officer, Yle News

United States: Alaska prisons filling up since state’s reversal on justice reform, Alaska Public Media

Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO - Juneau

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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