Judge Makes Final Ruling in Miller Campaign Lawsuit
FAIRBANKS — A lawsuit born out of the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in Alaska has come to a close more than two months after the signing of an initial judgment between former Republican candidate Joe Miller, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker.
After disagreement regarding the meaning of the judgment, Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides issued a formal final judgment on the case, accepting the terms of the judgment that had been penned in mid-June.
The borough and Whitaker had agreed to jointly pay $5,000 to end the long-running and costly lawsuit and, as they made clear, the judgment denied any admission of fault relating to Miller’s claims that someone at the borough improperly released details of his personnel files during his campaign.
That detail — whether or not the borough or Whitaker were responsible for the leak — was the source of contention following the entering of the judgment. Miller publicly argued that a judgment by its nature admits fault.
The borough disagreed, pointing to the language in the judgment that Miller accepted, and Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides avoided elaborating on the issue, but pointed to the fact that everyone had signed judgement.
“The Offer of Judgment disclaiming any fault by Fairbanks North Star Borough and Jim Whitaker was accepted on June 20, 2012 by Intervenor Defendant, Cross Claimant and third Party Plaintiff Joseph Miller,” she wrote.
Miller’s spokesman Bill Peck said Miller saw the lack of elaboration as a good point but was disappointed that it didn’t acknowledge the objections Miller outlined while accepting the statement.
The final judgment also approved the terms of the $5,000 payment. Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said the borough has already cut a check for Miller.
“It’s all done as far as we’re concerned,” he said. “All the claims that Joe Miller had against the borough, the actions were all summarily taken care of with paying the $5,000 without any admission of wrongdoing. My view is that it’s done, and I guess it’s goodbye Joe.”
Miller won the August 2010 GOP primary, defeating Senator Lisa Murkowski. But Murkowski chose to stay in the race, mounting a write-in campaign that carried her to victory in the November general election.
The legal action among Miller, the borough and Whitaker was an outgrowth of separate lawsuits — later combined by a judge — brought by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Alaska Dispatch website seeking access to records of Miller’s employment at the borough. Miller worked as a part-time borough attorney before running for Senate.