Sept. 27, 2001 The Anchorage Daily News applauds Katie John lawsuit denial

Posted: Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Superior Court Judge John Reese said most of what needs saying in denying an essentially frivolous lawsuit attempting to force Gov. Tony Knowles to go through with an appeal of the Katie John subsistence lawsuit -- an appeal he's already abandoned.

''It's not my place as a judge to tell anyone, including the governor, to file an appeal,'' ruled Judge Reese. ''The governor's decision not to appeal Katie John was well within his discretion.''

Just so. The judge added another thought for the plaintiffs about democracy and the separation of powers: ''You guys thought you had his ear and then someone else got his ear. That's political. You're going to have to accept it.''

That's democracy. Congress saw fit to establish and support a rural subsistence preference to protect the subsistence way of life. A solid majority of Alaskans supported the idea back in 1982, and polls indicate a bigger majority would today. The Congressional delegation has urged a state solution to protect subsistence and regain state control of fish and game management. A majority of both houses of the Alaska Legislature has, at one time or another, expressed the same view. Justice and respect for subsistence ways of life demand that it be done.

Against all that stands a narrow wish among some folks that some unlikely legal strategy will prevail against the subsistence law, or some change of political heart will overcome the essential justice of the subsistence cause. That's an even longer shot than the challenge still before us -- which is to persuade two-thirds of the members of each house of the Alaska Legislature to put this whole question to the voters. That, too, is part of the constitutional scheme of our democracy.

As for the Katie John appeal, the governor made the right call -- and the judge did, too.

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