Alaska Dispatch is crowing about a decision rendered on Friday May 17th, 2013 by pro tem Alaska Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides ordering Joe Miller to pay more than $85,000 of Alaska Dispatch’s attorney fees and costs stemming from their 2010 lawsuit to make public Miller’s employment records during his time as a part-time government lawyer. Specifically, Alaska Dispatch's total fees were $112,375, while other costs totaled $2,309. Judge Joannides ordered Miller to pay 75 percent of the fees and 50 percent of the costs, for a total of $85,436. The Fairbanks-North Star Borough must pay 10 percent of the fees and 50 percent of the costs, a total of $12,392. Judge Joannides decided that Miller was a vexatious litigant who acted in bad faith, having unnecessarily dragged out the lawsuit. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has also published a story.
John McKay, a longtime Alaska media attorney who represented Alaska Dispatch during the quest to release Miller’s employment records, justified the decision. “Mr. Miller unreasonably ran up the cost of this litigation for both the Dispatch and the Borough,” McKay said. “After we got the records released, he refused to let the Dispatch out of the case unless it gave up its rightful claim to fees as the winning party and made the Dispatch incur more and more unnecessary fees, using this as leverage. The judge correctly rejected this tactic, and the Dispatch should be credited for setting an example by resisting such intimidation.” The rest of the Dispatch article provides more background on the case, from their perspective.
Although Miller has 30 days to appeal the court decision, he has not personally responded as of this post; on May 19th, Miller spokesman Bill Peck merely said Miller and his staff had yet to see the judge’s ruling. However, Miller has allowed conservative Alaska blogger Thomas Lamb to post a response on Restoring Liberty, and Lamb discloses a few facts that Alaska Dispatch left out. Since Miller is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, he's not going to accept outside articles for publication on his website unless there's verification, so we can be reasonably assured of Lamb's facts:
-- Alaska Dispatch remained party to the case long after the Anchorage Daily News and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reasonably withdrew and had agreed not to petition the court for legal fees. Of course, it was an Alaska Dispatch reporter, Tony Hopfinger, who got trussed up by Federal snitch William Fulton and his buzzcut security thugs at a Miller campaign event in Anchorage in October 2010, but this opens up speculation as to whether or not Dispatch was also motivated by revenge.
-- Most of the fees were billed either before Miller intervened in the case or after they were a relevant party to the case.
-- Judge Stephanie Joannides was revealed to have had a financial relationship with a Dispatch employee, yet she refused to recuse herself from the case. Judge Joannides had rented her basement apartment to an Alaska Dispatch employee, but claimed that the fact was irrelevant to the case.
-- Judge Joannides was hand-picked for the case by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. Under normal circumstances, a judge would be assigned through a random selection process.
What no media outlet has explained is why Judge Joannides is still involved in the case. Judge Joannides officially stepped down from the bench on January 31st, 2011. Her name does not appear on the Alaska Judicial Council's official list of judges. Yet she's remained involved in Joe Miller's legal disputes, having intervened in a judgment between Miller, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker back in September 2012. However, Administrative Rule 23 of the Alaska Rules of Court authorizes the chief justice, or another justice designated by the chief justice, to appoint a retired judge to sit temporarily (pro tem) in any court in Alaska where such an assignment is deemed necessary for the efficient administration of justice. Pro tem appointments may be made for one or more cases, or for a specified period of time up to two years. Since the Chief Justice hand-picked Joannides for the case, this means he conferred a pro tem appointment upon her.
Considering Joe Miller's litigation history, it is possible he may choose to appeal the ruling, since over $85,000 is at stake. Miller is getting penalized merely for seeking justice. However, this could end up undermining his Senate campaign. Already, public comments to Alaska media outlets indicate most respondents are happy with the decision. Here's a sampling:
frozen_alaskan posted at 12:12 pm on Mon, May 20, 2013 (News-Miner):
If Joe "Sue Em" Miller had not been so lawsuit happy, he would not have had to found himself in this position, that is, losing his lawsuit. This hypocrite is living in D.C. yet says he is going to run for election in Alaska again. Well, the G.O.P. voters actually named him in the last primary. Maybe they are stupid enough to do so again. I will be voting for whoever else is running in that primary as I hope other Alaskans will do so as well.
Art Chance 7 hours ago (Alaska Dispatch):
It's expensive to be Sarah Palin's sockpuppet! Actually, Mark Begich should pay Miller's legal bills to keep him in the running because Miller is Begich's only hope for remaining a US Senator.
Michael A. Armstrong 14 hours ago (Alaska Dispatch):
Good job, John McKay. This must be sweet revenge for Tony Hopfinger, too.