Case: Fischer v. Campbell

3AN-09-12037CI | Alaska state trial court

Filed Date: Nov. 23, 2009

Closed Date: Nov. 29, 2010

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This state court case challenged a ballot initiative seeking to recognize the legal personhood of “all human beings including unborn children” (the “Initiative”). In August 2009, three sponsors filed an application with the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska to certify the Initiative. On October 23, 2009, the Lieutenant Governor certified the Initiative, allowing its circulation for gathering signatures. On November 3, 2009, three Alaska citizens filed their complaint for declaratory and injunctive …

This state court case challenged a ballot initiative seeking to recognize the legal personhood of “all human beings including unborn children” (the “Initiative”). In August 2009, three sponsors filed an application with the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska to certify the Initiative. On October 23, 2009, the Lieutenant Governor certified the Initiative, allowing its circulation for gathering signatures.

On November 3, 2009, three Alaska citizens filed their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in the Superior Court for the State of Alaska, in the Third Judicial District at Anchorage. Plaintiffs, consisting of a professor, registered nurse, and attorney were represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Alaska, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Plaintiffs asked the court to find that the Lieutenant Governor improperly certified the Initiative. 

In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged four separate claims. First, the Lieutenant Governor violated Article XI, section 1 of the Alaska Constitution in certifying the Initiative because it lacked the necessary attributes of a law. The initiative process as laid out in the state constitution could not be used to pass a non-binding resolution or “merely advisory” statement of policy. Second, the Initiative failed to comply with the single-subject requirement in Article II, section 13 of the Alaska Constitution. Plaintiffs alleged the Initiative, seeking to recognize legal personhood of “all human beings, from the beginning of their biological development,” could have far-reaching consequences in various areas of law, including criminal, tax, property, and government benefits. Third, the vaguely-worded Initiative, susceptible to multiple interpretations, failed to give voters adequate notice of what it proposed to enact. Fourth, the summary of the Initiative was biased, incomplete, and inaccurate because (1) the Attorney General contradicted the sponsors’ purposes when he stated the Initiative would not amend or repeal existing state law regulating abortion; (2) it failed to inform voters of downstream bans on otherwise legal healthcare services, and (3) it failed to advise voters that conferring legal personhood could alter potentially any Alaska statute or regulation pertaining to a “person.”

Both parties moved for summary judgment. Oral argument was held on June 16, 2010. However, by the one-year filing deadline of November 5, 2010, the initiative sponsors failed to file collected signatures required for this proposal's inclusion on the ballot, thereby mooting this lawsuit. Plaintiffs did not oppose defendants’ motion to dismiss. This case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Emily Liu (11/29/2022)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

3AN-09-12037CI

Docket 3AN-09-12037CI

March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

Docket

3AN-09-12037CI

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Nov. 23, 2009

Nov. 23, 2009

Complaint

Docket

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Alaska

Case Type(s):

Reproductive Issues

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 23, 2009

Closing Date: Nov. 29, 2010

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Three Alaska citizens: a professor, nurse, and lawyer

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Center for Reproductive Rights

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Available Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Reproductive health care (including birth control, abortion, and others)

General:

Abortion