Alaska Supreme Court Opinions for the week ending April 5, 2013

There are three new opinions issued by the Alaska Supreme Court this week.  Two domestic relations cases, one child in aid of need.  While the headings might suggest these decisions don’t have broad application to Alaskan’s, they have many points that address issues of general application

Supreme Court Opinion No. 6772 S-14403 Wagner v. Wagner [domestic relations]

This ruling demonstrates how jealously the Alaska Supreme Court guard’s the appearance of fairness in the Alaska Judicial System.  The superior court held trial without the attendance of Mr. Wagner.  The court entered a judgment splitting things equally.  Mr. Wagner didn’t complain that equal was not fair or that any other result would have been urged if he could have attended.  These facts are actually required by the court rule.  The Alaska Supreme Court overlooked that deficiency and found Mr. Wagner’s reasons for nonattendance compelling enough that it ruled a continuance should have been granted.  So the Wagner’s will likely get to retry their case this spring with both parties present, perhaps


Supreme Court MOJs

No. 1455 S-14319 Pulczinski v. Pulczinski [domestic relations]

This is a child support change case.  If the child support amount is adjusted, the change date will be based on the date of the notice of possibility of change.  If it takes 14 months before the court signs the order you will suddenly owe 14 months worth of back support.  That can result in a huge burden if you didn’t think you were going to lose the motion.  As shown in this case, you won’t make it go away by appealing.



Preprinted Court Divorce Forms Causes $600,000 Loss

Divorce Forms

 Divorce Forms Aren’t for Everyone

Camilla and Jerry were married for 13 years and had 3 children.  They decided to divorce and used preprinted court forms to work out their own settlement.  The Florida State Court forms that they used had provisions for the payment of alimony.  The form left two blanks to describe the amount, duration and limitations on the alimony payments.  They agreed to the payment of $10,000 a month until 2020 on one line.  On the other line they put until the earlier of the 18th birthday of the middle daughter or until Carmella remarried.  This was a five year difference and $600,000 hung in the balance.

The parties all moved to  Alaska.  They domesticated their order in Alaska and then had a dispute about whether the $10,000 a month stopped in 2015 or 2020.

The courts explored both the Florida and Alaska rules for resolving internal conflicts in the drafting of documents,   Rules of interpretation, Conflicts of law and other rules.  The trial court reached one result.  If the ruling was based on the evidence, the ruling could stand.  If the ruling was based on the applicable rule of law it could be reversed.   The Alaska Supreme Court applied the rules differently and reversed.    Read the decision to learn who won.




Property Line Disputes


Property Line Disputes
The subject Property in Dispute

Property Line Disputes


The Kaylors live in the north parcel, 4500 E 135th.  The McCarrey’s live in the south parcel, 4530 E 136th.  Between them lies a strip of land that looks like a road.  The parties agree that the strip of land is owned by the McCarreys; but, they don’t agree as to whether the McCarrey’s can exclude the Kaylor’s from their own property.

The Kaylors like to store their Alaska toys at the back of their lot so they don’t have to see their own collection of used vehicles.  Instead, they’d like to leave them in full view of the MCCarrey’s front windows and drive way.  The McCarrey’s proposed fencing the area and installing a gate to reduce the Kaylor’s access and to encourage them to store their stuff somewhere else.  The Kaylors sued to prevent the fence.

The trial court granted the injunction.  The Alaska Supreme court overruled this holding and remanded the matter back to the trial court for additional findings.  Specifically, the land grant that created the interest provided for a public right of way.  However, the parties had not addressed any evidence to the issue of whether the public right of way grant had been accepted by any governmental agency.  If it turns out that the grant was accepted as a public right of way the Kaylors can keep piling stuff up in the McCarrey’s front view.



SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY shall stand trial for Piracy

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society attacks whaling ships.  The Sea Shepherd attacked the INSTITUTE OF CETACEAN RESEARCH vessel.  Research brought claims of piracy against the Society.  The Oregon federal district court dismissed the claims.  Just last month, on appeal the Ninth Circuit held the Sea Shepherd trial shall proceed to trial and reversed the dismissal.  Under the laws of nations the conduct is piracy, even though the purpose of the conservation group does not include seeking private financial gain from the vessels against which it engages in aggressive actions

Jolly Roger of “Calico Jack” Rackham
Image in public domain

April 25, 2013 — Seward’s Day in Alaska

The Alaska court system is closed today, April 25, 2013.  It is Seward’s Day and our offices are closed as well.  I have been handling a few matters and have a client meeting later today.  But, there is nothing that can be filed in court today.  I look forward to serving your needs tomorrow.

The Anchorage Daily News has accumulated a list of other offices that are closed today

Seward's Day in Alaska  -- The courts are closed
The March 30, 1867 check used to purchase Alaska.

as well.

Local and Federal Taxes

Williams v. Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska Sup. Ct. S14513 (Feb. 15, 2013). (Holding your personal residence is not exempt from local taxation simply because you built your home with federal grant money.) Was the grant money taxable income in the year received? Are the forgiveness provisions of the repayment terms taxable forgiveness of indebtedness income? If not, should they be?