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Abortion Lawsuit Hearing Delayed, Judges Shuffled

Published On: Jan 31 2014 06:00:00 PM AKST
Alaska Supreme Court Upholds Proposed Abortion Initiative

A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the state over new abortion laws set to take effect Feb. 2 was delayed Friday after the judge chosen to hear the case was shuffled several times.

The lawsuit, brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, was filed Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court. The new laws set new rules defining what constitutes a "medically necessary" abortion for purposes of receiving Medicaid funding.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is seeking a temporary block to the new regulations as the court case is being decided. Oral arguments were to be presented by both sides of the lawsuit in court Friday, but the judge handling the case was changed three times.

Judge Mark Rindner was originally set to hear the case Friday afternoon, but the state exercised a “pre-emptory challenge,” essentially dismissing him from the case.

“The state doesn’t exercise the peremptory challenge often,” said Susan Orlansky, local counsel for Planned Parenthood. “It was a bit of a surprise.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the department's policy is to not to comment on peremptory challenges in ongoing litigation.

The case then went to Judge Gregory Miller, but he recused himself from the case.

“Judges usually don’t do that unless they have some kind of personal conflict of interest,” Orlasnky said.

Just after 5 p.m. Friday, the case was assigned to Judge John Suddock, who will hear the case Monday.