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Legislature Acts to Make Judges Follow Court Rules in Weighing Economic Impacts on Injunctions and Suits (HB47/Feige)

Feige’s HB47 levels the playing field in state court proceedings on projects

Friday, April 18, 2014, Juneau, Alaska – The 28th Alaska Legislature today passed a bill to highlight that the courts should follow their own rule in making filers post bonds when requesting the courts to stop legally permitted industrial operations.

House Bill 47, by House Resources Co-Chair Eric Feige, levels the playing field when injunctions or stays are considered by state judges. “Those who file suits should have to think long and hard about the financial consequences of their actions. Maybe less frivolous lawsuits will be filed,” Feige, R-Chickaloon, said. “Ultimately, as the law is written today, those who feel the most immediate impacts of these cases are workers and their families and that’s not right, because workers are laid off and the economic activity and benefits grind to a halt.”

Injunctions can cause delays to projects, shutting them down completely in most cases, at a significant cost to working Alaskans, businesses and the state treasury. “We’re not limiting public access or involvement – the public process remains,” Feige said. “We’re protecting our respected process and looking to strengthen our economy and provide a fair level of protection to those pursuing projects.”

“The State already has a rigorous, deliberate, science-based permitting system with many opportunities for public participation and continued oversight to ensure compliance, and we trust their process,” Feige said. “We also trust the courts to uphold the laws we pass. This bill brings fairness and equity to the process and will make those who look to stall or kill worthwhile, legally-permitted projects, think twice and realize they may have to pony up in order to make their case.”

HB 47 parallels Alaska Civil Rule 65(c), which states: “no restraining order or preliminary injunction shall issue except upon the giving of security by the applicant, in such sum as the court deems proper, for the payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred or suffered by any party who is found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” Judges already have the ability to require security. (Emphasis added.) In most cases they are not doing so. This bill works with the existing civil rule and requires that the party requesting the court to ask for a bond or security present evidence of the costs and damages incurred, and that the court consider this as one of the relevant factors when it determines a bond/security amount; setting the amount of the bond remains with the courts.

“Resource development is an integral piece of our Alaskan economy. Our ability to responsibly develop our resources is the backbone of our ability to fund our state – both the public and private sector. This ability to provide for our citizens was an important reason we were granted statehood,” Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage and the bill’s spokeswoman on the Senate floor, said. “As public interest litigants seek to stop projects through the courts, it only makes sense to consider the full economic implications for the jobs and wages and effects on future development.”

The House today concurred in Senate changes to HB 47, which passed the Alaska Senate Wednesday by a vote of 14-6 and originally passed the House March 12, and now heads to the governor for signature.

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