An update on the Carlson case

Deckboss doesn't have time right now to get into the particulars, but he can advise you of a little news with regard to the long-running Carlson case.

The Alaska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in the matter starting at 10 a.m. today.

For background on the case and the stakes involved, here's a piece by yours truly from the June 2010 issue of Pacific Fishing magazine:

Carlson case grinds on

The Alaska Legislature in April appropriated nearly $75 million to repay nonresident commercial fishermen for overcharges on permit fees. Thousands of fishermen could receive a piece of the money. But don't start looking for a check just yet.

The potential refunds stem from the Carlson class-action lawsuit — litigation so lengthy and contorted it evokes the Dickens novel "Bleak House."

Outside fishermen sued the state in 1984, upset Alaska charged them triple what residents paid for fishing privileges.

The epic case has made four trips to the Alaska Supreme Court. The suit has succeeded in equalizing the annual "base fee" all fishermen pay to obtain or renew a permit — though nonresidents continue to pay a "surcharge" of $140.

Anyway, government lawyers have battled with considerable success through the years to whittle down the state's liability under Carlson. Out of a class that once numbered 95,000 members, only 4,705 now stand to receive any money. These are limited entry permit holders; crew license holders no longer qualify for refunds.

Under the latest ruling from state Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski, the state owes about $12.4 million in refunds plus $62.4 million in interest.

While the Legislature has appropriated these sums, that doesn't mean the state is yet prepared to pay out the money. No, this 26-year court fight is not over.

On March 24, the state attorney general appealed the Carlson case again to the Alaska Supreme Court, asking the justices to either toss the $62.4 million in interest or apply a lower interest rate.

What does it all mean?

"We're not about to cut checks," said Bill McAllister, spokesman for the attorney general.