Judge Mary Greene was interviewed in her office in the Butrovich Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on February 1, 2007 in Fairbanks, Alaska. She was General Counsel for the University of Alaska until her retirement in mid-2007. She was a State Appellate Court Judge in Fairbanks from 1985 to 2002 and during her tenure was responsible for some of the legal decisions regarding the Mental Health Trust lawsuit. Judge Greene is careful and professional in her discussion of the lawsuit, the sensitive nature of the material, and the long and complicated road toward settlement. She talks about the details of the legal and legislative process of the Mental Health Trust case, and what her role was. She also reflects on the personal impact of a ten years case and offers her assessment of the outcomes. As with the other players in the lawsuit and settlement, Judge Greene expresses how she was trying to do the best for those in Alaska in need of mental health services.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Feb 1, 2007
Narrator(s): Judge Mary Greene
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Making land selections and re-constituting the Mental Health Trust lands.
Section 2: Selecting and valuing lands for inclusion in the new Trust lands.
Section 3: Re-construction of the Mental Health Trust lands after the State had sold off and mis-used the original appropriation.
Section 4: Working with the bureaucracy and administrators in the State Department of Natural Resources to get land valued, selected and reconstituted into the Trust lands.
Section 5: The original case of the State misusing the Mental Health Trust lands, the lawsuit that required the State to reconstitute the lands, the difficulties in getting the State to respond, and boards and commissions he served on to help settle all this.
Section 6: His volunteer work with different mental health groups working to settle the Trust lands issue.
Section 7: Confusion and corruption in the use of land and lack of State oversight.
Section 8: The personal toll the whole process took, why he pulled out before it was all settled, and how the State managed the land and income for the Trust.
Section 9: Disapproval of the legislature’s recommendation for finally settling the Trust lands and suspicion of official meeting minutes being edited to eliminate opposing arguments.
Section 10: Nasty period of secrecy and conflict over the identification, valuation and selection of lands for settling the Trust lands case, and having allies in the legislature and the Department of Natural Resources, but still fighting a losing battle against the government.
Section 11: The State government working to suppress the truth about the Trust lands.
Section 12: Studying the behavior of bureaucracies, using Southeast Alaska as a case study.
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BILL SCHNEIDER: Today is February 1st, 2007. I'm Bill Schneider; Karen Brewster's here with me too, doing the recording.
And we have the pleasure today of doing a recording with Judge Mary Greene. And this is part of the Mental Health Trust research that we're doing for Karen Purdue. So thank you very much for taking the time --
MARY GREENE: Certainly.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- to do this.
Well, let's -- let's start with your -- with your personal background.
MARY GREENE: Okay. I grew up in -- in a small town in Wyoming. Went to -- did my undergraduate work at the University of Wyoming and went to law school at Harvard Law School.
And the Supreme Court of Alaska had an active recruiting program for clerks at Harvard, and I was one of the people that was chosen to be a Supreme Court law clerk, and that brought me to Alaska in the fall of 1976.
I clerked for Justice Rabinowitz, and then I've gone to a number of jobs.
I was appointed to the bench in 1985, and retired from there, 18 years ago, after a long career. So --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. What made you get into law?
MARY GREENE: The fact I did -- I realized that I wasn't going to be a great mathematician. But I didn't realize that until I had done a little bit of graduate school, and so, you know, I needed something else to go into, law is one of those things that you can go into if you don't have an undergraduate background. So that -- that landed me in law school.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uhhum. And you had a chance to work with Judge Rabinowitz, so that must have been quite an inspiration.
MARY GREENE: It was. Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Who were some of your mentors, as you will?
MARY GREENE: Well, certainly Jay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He was a giant.
Section 2: Well, okay. What brought you to do Mental Health Trust suit?
MARY GREENE: I was assigned to it. The -- the way things work in the Fairbanks courts are there are rotational assignments. And I replaced Judge Taylor on the bench after his retirement, and he was the judge who originally started the Weiss case with the mental health lands case.
By the time I got the case, it had already been to the Supreme Court one time. And the Supreme Court had made the decision that the state had violated the trust when it reclassified the lands that were trust lands as general state lands so that they could do anything they wanted with them.
So the Supreme Court had already ruled on that, and -- and by the time I got the case, the question was, how do you reconstitute the trust. It had been several years, it had been, by that point, I think, seven or eight years, but since the time of the reclassification.
By the time the Supreme Court issued their decision, there was a very -- I think only 35 percent of the original trust lands were not conveyed to someone else or in another kind of -- of classification.
350,000 of the acres had been classified as -- as state parks, recreation sites, forests, et cetera, and so they were in a different classification. A lot of the land had been sold, or mostly conveyed to municipalities.
So when I came on the bench, that was where it stood, and -- and the task that we had at that point was to reconstitute the trust in accordance with what the Supreme Court had told us to do.
And so a lot of water had already gone under the bridge by the time I got there, but it took another 10 years to get to the end.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what year did you get onto it? When was that?
MARY GREENE: 1985. The Supreme Court opinion in the case came out, I think, in October of '85, and as soon as it was remanded to the Superior Court, I got it. And we had -- as soon as I got it, we had some motion practice, and it continued for the next 10 years. But --
BILL SCHNEIDER: You said you had what after you got an assignment?
MARY GREENE: Motions.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Motions.
MARY GREENE: There -- the first thing that came up was the Alaska Mental Health Association had not been allowed to intervene, become a party in the lawsuit when it was before Judge Taylor.
The Supreme Court had reversed that and, you know, not in a published opinion, but just in an order, and said it's okay, it's no longer untimely, they had -- they had tried to come into the case late. It's no longer untimely since, you know, we're giving it back to the Superior Court anyway, let them in now.
And so because their order wasn't very specific, it was an open question about how much they could do in the case, whether they could go back to the very beginning and -- and add new claims in the complaint, or whether they just came in to argue about how to reconstitute the trust. And so that was the first motion that came before me. Followed by many, many more.
Section 3: BILL SCHNEIDER: What were some of the others?
MARY GREENE: Oh, heavens. There were later -- later folks. Once it looked like there was going to be a lot of money involved, there were other intervenors who wanted to come in as party's plaintiffs, along with Weiss and the Alaska Mental Health Association.
A group representing development -- developmentally disabled wanted to become part of the -- the class, which was granted. Chronic alcoholics in need of hospitalization became another part of the class.
And one of the -- one of the first major decisions was what this class was going to look like. It was a class action, it had started out with Weiss filing on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, but there were different points of view to be argued.
And the question about whether or not these folks were beneficiaries was actually a very difficult question. When the Congress had created the trust, they did so because Alaska had incredibly bad, poor, and substandard treatment for the mentally ill, and -- and others.
And we looked at all of the legislative history of the act that created the trust in Congress, and what Congress had to look at, you know, the most important things were -- were a report from Morningside Hospital. You probably know the inside, outside, Morningside stories, or if you've lived here, you may have -- may remember those.
But Congress had investigated Morningside probably at the request of the territory, but I'm not that sure about that, to see whether or not it was fulfilling its function. It was the place where anyone who needed hospitalization for mental illness or a number of other things was sent.
And so we had -- I had a -- a -- an interesting sort of background about what was going on and what was in Congress's mind about who should be included as beneficiaries of the trust. And so it was really fascinating reading. Just fascinating reading. And so that was one of the big decisions that -- that was made in the beginning of the case, as far as I was -- after I -- after I came on board.
Section 4: BILL SCHNEIDER: So you really had to be involved in defining severe mental illness --
MARY GREENE: Well, I didn't do that.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- from a legal standpoint.
MARY GREENE: No. What I really defined is who was going to be a part of the class, were the developmentally disabled part of the class, were chronic alcoholics going to be part of the class.
BILL SCHNEIDER: "Class" meaning people that could sue?
MARY GREENE: People who were -- people -- yeah, people who were beneficiaries for the trust, people for whom the trust was created.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uhhum.
MARY GREENE: And the basis of my decision was really to go back to those reports. Who was in Morningside, since that was the problem that was -- that was being addressed.
And although there was certainly a lot of people in Morningside that had no business being in Morningside, for a number of reasons, including the fact that -- that in the territorial days, the way that one was committed for mental illness was by a jury trial.
And, you know, we only had one psychiatrist in the entire state. People, especially from villages, who were just ill, some people who had only tuberculosis were committed and held in Morningside. And they never got out.
There were a number of problems that were outlined in this report about people who -- whose only problem was that they didn't speak English. And so they get -- somebody thinks, boy, this person's really weird, they have a jury trial, the jury sees they are really weird because they don't speak, they can't defend themselves, and they ended up in Morningside.
But there were people for whom the trust was really intended that were properly in Morningside. And it was clear from the record in the -- the -- the Congressional report that those people included people with developmental disabilities, certainly the severely mentally ill, no one questioned those.
And chronic alcoholics and inebriates. And those people were part of -- of what Morningside was made up of legitimately.
And therefore, my conclusion was Congress intended this trust that was created to provide resources to fund the mental health programs of Alaska was intended for these people.
And so I allowed in all of those people as parts of the class.
As time went on, by the time it was ultimately over, they had disagreements about what the proper -- proper solution was, what the proper settlement was.
And so they -- they -- they also -- I mean, they were advocating for their groups, but they had different ideas about what was important, as well. And so it was -- it was good that we had everyone, but it certainly caused a lot of problems, in terms of more litigation. But -- but it was an interesting task.
Section 5: The second big thing that I decided had to do with -- with the recording of lis pendens. And lis pendens are notices put in the -- the land recording system that there's litigation going on that could affect the title of the land.
When Judge Taylor had the case and had decided -- made his decision, he removed all of the lis pendens that had been placed by -- by plaintiffs. Said you can't file those anymore.
After the Supreme Court reversed this decision, and it came back to me, reversed it in part, and it came back to me, the question was, can we go out and try to protect that 35 percent of the lands that were part of the trust that haven't been sold or otherwise, you know, nothing has happened to.
And in fact, can we put them on other pieces of property that were originally part of the trust that had been sold. And after research and other matters, I ended up allowing the plaintiffs to put lis pendens or anything that had originally been in the trust.
The reason that that's important is that there's a provision in law that says that if you take land, let's say it's even been stolen and you buy this land, but you have no knowledge that it was stolen, and you paid good value for it, then it's going to be yours, even if it was stolen. And so that's -- that's called a bona fide purchaser for value.
And the way that -- the only way that the trust could make sure that no more BFPs came into the -- into existence was to provide notice in the land records that this is part of a -- this land was part of the trust, there's litigation going on now, and it's possible we may get this land back.
And so basically, that was -- that was a big fight throughout.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Just a clarification on that. So that was -- was that retrospect, the land that had already been disposed of to other parties?
MARY GREENE: Including those, yeah. It was not at all clear whether any of that land should go back into the trust. The Supreme Court had left that undecided in its opinion, and so it was an open question.
Since it was an open question, people needed to have notice.
But it was -- it was a very, very large hardship on people who had bought the land. I had friends who, you know, were always telling me, when are you going to get rid of this, you know.
And -- and the legislatures -- legislators got a lot of pressure from people who had purchased lands.
The -- they were called in the litigation the mom and pops, you know. The poor souls out there who, by no fault of their own, had ended up being affected by this litigation and this incredibly lengthy litigation.
And so there was a lot of sympathy for those folks, understandably, but the law was on the side of the plaintiffs to make it of record to make sure that people knew that it -- it was possible that the land was -- was going to go back. It made it very difficult for those people to sell their lands. Very difficult. And that was one of the tragedies of the lawsuit.
Section 6: BILL SCHNEIDER: So when it was settled, then was that restriction on that land lifted?
MARY GREENE: It was. But -- but it wasn't settled for a long time.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And -- and -- and how was it settled? Were those lands returned or was there a cash settlement?
MARY GREENE: They were not returned. There was a cash settlement plus some replacement lands in the ultimate settlement.
There were several settlements, attempted settlements along the way. I think that -- that everyone had some understanding that the best way to resolve this lawsuit was a settlement that had to be approved by the Legislature in some way because it was going to involve the conveyance of land,
and under the Alaska Constitution, the sole -- the sole entity that's responsible for state lands is -- is the Legislature.
Now, they've delegated some of that to the -- to the Department of Natural Resources, but nonetheless, a settlement was going to have to come from the Legislature.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But how could that -- oh. So you -- so you set the conditions for the settlement, and then -- no.
MARY GREENE: No. No. No. The parties went out and settled and were negotiating a little bit with the Legislature, a little bit with each other, and a little bit with the state, with the executive part. But I couldn't dictate the terms of a settlement. A judge can't do that.
So the judge's role is once they come in a class action, is once -- once the people come to -- to a resolution, a proposed settlement, then they have to present it to the Court for approval.
And the Court looks beyond just the people that it's got in front of it, it looks to the entire class, which, in this case, was all of the people in Alaska who were -- who were potential beneficiaries or were beneficiaries, which is all people who had mental illness, developmental disabilities, you know, longterm alcoholic -- alcohol problems that could result in institutionalization, you know, all of those people, or people that might become one of those beneficiaries. So I mean, it was -- it was huge.
Section 7: When -- when there were settlements that got past the first stage and were into notice to the class, the parties agreed, and I agreed with them, that we had to send notice to every Alaskan of -- of the pending resolution of the suit. And have comments back from every person who chose to comment. So that was a massive effort.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
MARY GREENE: Yeah. It was a big class.
So that was sort of the initial stages. They -- the parties, the attorneys for all of the sides made many efforts to get a settlement.
And there were a couple of things that the Legislature did that didn't ultimately get approved. The first one was the Legislature decided that they could -- they could reconstitute the trust without participation of the other side. A unilateral settlement.
And the first thing that they proposed was they would put in the trust only lands that would never be developed that were, you know, glaciers and parks, basically. And -- but they would pay the trust rental for those lands.
So it would be an entirely cash settlement; in fact, that there would be a, quote, unquote, reconstituted trust of basically valueless lands.
That -- that settlement may have been, in retrospect, the best deal that the plaintiffs could have gotten, but they did not like that deal and rejected it.
And I -- I told the state I wasn't going to, you know, hear a unilateral settlement because I didn't think that you should be able to do that in the class action.
So they went forward. They had two more settlements, one of which took and one of which didn't.
The earlier one was a process settlement, and what that entailed was there was -- if I can get all of this right, it's been awhile -- there was a list of what was called hypothecated lands, which were lands from which the -- the -- the beneficiaries could choose, the plaintiff class could choose to reconstitute the trust. And the -- I don't remember that there was any cash settlement. I think it was all lands in that settlement.
And they would give up on reconstituting the trust with any of the lands that were -- you know, had been sold to other people. Those were gone. And so then they -- but they only had a process by which they could agree or not agree on certain lands. And if push came to shove, the lands would have to come out of the hypothecated land list.
At that point, because the hypothecated land list included a lot of environmentally sensitive lands, there were a number of people jointly called the -- the environmental or -- or public interest intervenors.
A -- groups of people decided they wanted to have a say in what -- what was going to be happening with a lot of lands in Alaska. And so they were permitted to intervene, and they challenged that lawsuit, or challenged that settlement in the lawsuit saying, you know, you can't approve that.
I ended up agreeing with them on one of their points, which was a problem because this hypothecated land list was an honest-toGod list of lands, but the Legislature had never seen it, although they said they had. You know. It -- I don't think it even existed when they passed the bill. It was in the closing minutes of the Legislature that year.
And I think the parties were still in the process of writing it up.
But one of the advantages to that, of just saying this is -- it's the hypothecated land list is it wasn't goring anybody's -- anybody's pet bull. You know. The -- if they knew it was on the land list, the legislators will normally try to protect what's in their district.
But since they didn't, they -- there wasn't an honest legislative process on it.
And for constitutional reasons, I decided you couldn't do that and rejected that settlement. So they're back to the settlement board, then, about what they -- what they are going to do.
Section 8: The state was getting incredibly tired of this lawsuit and, you know, I think that -- that a number of people were getting a lot of pressure from the -- the poor folks out there who had lis pendens on their -- on their lands.
And ultimately, the Legislature passed a settlement. They had a proviso that said if plaintiffs, if you don't accept this, you're going -- we're just going to do something. And that's going to stick. And it wasn't going to be good. We didn't know -- I think we knew what it was going to be, but it wasn't going to be good.
And so this -- this settlement is basically forced on the plaintiff class. But some of these various groups of intervening plaintiffs and the original plaintiffs agreed with them. Some did not and some did. So we had a split class on whether or not the settlement should be accepted.
I should -- in the process of approving class settlements, you first do a preliminary review to see whether or not this could pass muster. Then you give notice to all members of the class, and hear their comments on whether or not you should accept it, and then make a final determination.
And so we -- it passed the first step, there was notice to every Alaskan. And we received hundreds of responses back about whether or not this was -- this was something that should happen.
And, you know, both the -- both the state and my office recorded all of those and classified them, and -- and paid attention to what the comments were said.
We also held a number of hearings in various places who allow people to come in and -- and speak in person.
We held two hearings in Anchorage, one at the courthouse and one at API. We held one in Fairbanks, and I think there was one more, although I can't remember where it was. And there may have only been those three.
But a number of people came and -- and talked and indicated what they thought about whether or not they -- the -- the settlement should be approved.
So that was kind of the history of the thing. I ended up approving that settlement.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So you took all those comments and --
MARY GREENE: All into account. And -- yeah. Considered those, considered the people who -- who wrote, the people who talked in person, and decided whether or not this was a reasonable settlement.
I ended up approving it, and several people appealed from that. The Supreme Court affirmed it in May of 1997, which was the end of the litigation. So that's sort of the broad history of the history of the litigation.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
MARY GREENE: But it was -- it was a very interesting and very complex case. It took an incredible amount of time. The attorneys were -- were excellent, and fought hard for everything that they thought would benefit their portion of the class, and were very good at it.
The state's attorney was very good at it. You know, Tom Koester was the state's attorney, and he lived this case for a number of years, as well.
The -- the fact that everyone was good was helpful in many ways. You knew that -- I knew that -- that they had given -- they had given me most everything I needed to know to make the decision.
But it -- it was also very difficult decisions. They were -- they were not -- they were always close cases.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And did you make the decision yourself?
MARY GREENE: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Is that how that works --
MARY GREENE: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- usually?
MARY GREENE: Yeah. Yeah. Superior Court judges get to make their own decisions, Supreme Court has to collaborate. There are five of them who have to make a decision. But as a Superior Court judge, you get to make -- do your own stuff. So...
Section 10: BILL SCHNEIDER: So how does this case fit in with anything else that you dealt with or other judges have dealt with?
MARY GREENE: Well, it has --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Does it have precedent?
MARY GREENE: Very little. There -- there were three cases that were somewhat similar, two cases that were somewhat similar, and then this one.
One was Lawson versus Arizona, which ended up in the United States Supreme Court, and that was actions taken by Arizona about school trust lands.
The other one was -- was in Alaska. And when the Legislature, in 1978, said that the mental health lands were just general state lands, you could do anything you want with them, they did the same thing to university trust lands.
And so the university case had gone through to Alaska Supreme Court before this one.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, it was before?
MARY GREENE: It was filed before, and by the time that Judge Taylor made his decision, that decision was already out. He based his decision on that decision. On the university lands case.
So, you know, there was some precedent, but largely, there hasn't been much like this go on.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And how similar was the university situation?
MARY GREENE: Judge Taylor thought it was real similar, and the Supreme Court said, ah, not that similar. They decided that the Mental Health Trust stood in different shoes than the university did.
In the university case, the Supreme Court had said that it was okay to do this as long as you paid the trust the -- the -- the value of the lands. In the Mental Health Trust case, they said that wasn't really quite good enough.
And I think part of the reason that they did that, although it's not explicit in their decision, is that the -- the trust was created by the Federal Government, by Congress, said that, you know, the funds were to be expended for mental -- for mental health in the first place, but the state could spend them for other things if they exhausted that.
The other thing that was a major difference between the -- the university case and the mental health case is that the state argued that nothing should go to the Mental Health Trust because the state had expended more on -- on mental health treatments and -- and expenses than they had received from the trust. And so they said you don't get anything.
That was their initial position in the Supreme Court. And I think before Judge Taylor. They -- they modified that later on, but that was their initial position. And you know, they had spent more than -- than the trust was worth, even the lands that they gave away.
And so that made it particularly important for the plaintiffs to try to get all the lands that they could back into the trust because if the state again argued that, we've -- we've maxed out the money, they were not going to get a money settlement, and all those lands would be lost.
And that was the reason I believe that the plaintiffs were trying so hard to reach the -- the lands that had been sold to other people because those would be lost to them forever if not, if they weren't able to get them back and put them back in the trust. And there would be no money coming to the trust as a result of that.
In the university lands case, everything that got sold had to be -- they had -- the Legislature had to give that money to the state -- or I'm sorry, had to give that money to the -- to the trust for the university lands. And so it wasn't quite as -- as hard in that case to say, okay, money's just fine.
I think that's -- that is really the difference of why the -- the Supreme Court came out differently in those two cases. And I'm pretty sure that that's why the plaintiffs were fighting so hard to reconstitute the trust with lands.
Section 11: BILL SCHNEIDER: I know in the George Rogers interview that he was very concerned about lands that could produce money.
MARY GREENE: Oh, yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: You know, as opposed to --
MARY GREENE: Right.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- just lands as property.
MARY GREENE: Yeah. The -- and in fact, when the -- the -- the Mental Health Trust Act was enacted by Congress before Statehood in 1956, and when the people who chose the lands for that -- for that -- for that trust chose lands that would be valuable, either that they would produce minerals and mineral wealth, and they were primarily looking at -- at coal, which was, you know, what -- what everybody thought that Alaska had and -- and was the most valuable mineral asset.
Yeah, nobody realized it was a bunch of oil on the North Slope.
So they chose those lands, and they chose lands right around the -- the municipalities. And that's really what ended up being -- being the problem for the trust is that everybody else wanted those lands, and they wanted -- they wanted them now.
DNR was not actively managing the trust lands, they were, in essence, treating them just like -- just like other state lands except they weren't giving them away. And so the lands weren't producing any money.
If the state had managed them actively and had sold lands, or -- or, you know, given them to municipalities, which is what they did with a lot of lands, then the trust would have been compensated and we probably wouldn't have been in this problem in the first place. But they hadn't actively managed them. They were -- they were inactive managers.
And so around the same time as 1978 when the reclassification happened, the Legislature had created municipal land entitlements, and so the municipalities were looking around at -- at their properties and they go, we want those. And those were mental health lands, and in some cases, university lands.
So they were the most valuable in terms of making money. But the trust lost them, and the -- the -- the acreage that was left, the 35 percent that was left, was pretty much useless land. You know, it was land that nobody else wanted.
KAREN BREWSTER: Useless in terms of it wouldn't produce --
MARY GREENE: Money.
KAREN BREWSTER: revenue, and then that money would then get used for mental health services and things --
MARY GREENE: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- is that the idea of this land trust?
MARY GREENE: Right. Yeah. Congress created it because it -- it knew that the territory didn't have the money to fund a good mental health program. And they created the land trust, they gave a million -- a million acres, they say, okay, a million acres should be enough to get enough money that you can run a good program in the territory -- I mean, the territory had very little money. And so the whole purpose of the trust was -- was to create money to support the mental health -- the mental health programs.
Section 12: BILL SCHNEIDER: What was it at -- at the time in which these lands were misused, misallocated, what was going on? I know that this was a time in which land was being opened to people for different purposes.
MARY GREENE: Well, I think that -- that the primary thing that was going on were the municipal entitlements, and that was a relatively new thing then, and the best land for them to get was this land. And they, in turn, brought pressure on the Legislature to say, okay, free this up, let us have this land, and they did. Both in terms of the university's land and -- and the Mental Health Trust lands.
There was also a lot of -- of Mental Health Trust lands and university lands that were suitable for parks. And I don't think that was really part of the -- the political scene at the time, although I've sort of reconstructed it because I don't remember it. I don't remember this -- I was never connected with what was going on in 1978 here about the mental health lands or the university lands, but I -- I don't think that was an important consideration in the Legislature's decision, but it may have been.
Certainly -- they wanted the lands that -- that had not been conveyed, for example, was the lands where the eagle observation areas down in Chilkat, outside of Haines, that they wanted to make into a state park and did make into a state park, but that was Mental Health Trust lands.
Section 13: BILL SCHNEIDER: So how do you -- how do you feel this has worked out, as you look back at this, so many years later?
MARY GREENE: Well, I think that -- I think that the best thing for the beneficiaries that came out of this was the mental health -- the Mental Health Board. You know. And certainly the -- the authority that was created has done -- has funded a lot of very wonderful programs and innovative stuff. And fortunately, the state is still picking up for -- picking up the buck for the regular sort of mental health programs.
You know, so that -- that worked well.
It will be -- it will depend on whether or not you hit some valuable minerals on some of the replacement lands that they got in -- in exchange, whether or not this is ever going to be a big pot of money.
It started out as a million dollars, but if they got -- if the trust gets very lucky, they could be very wealthy at some point. But they are going to have to be very lucky because it's hard rock minerals that are -- that these lands possibly contain.
So I think that the programmatic changes were -- that came out of the trust, out of the settlement, were very good for the -- for the people who need mental health services.
As far as reconstituting the trust, it didn't work very well. Yeah. They didn't get much out of that. They got the big pot of money and they've got some lands that may or may not be valuable, but you know, in the -- as -- as the politics changed over those years, they got the best deal they could at the end. There were times earlier when they could have got a better deal.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Why do you say that?
MARY GREENE: Because they were offered a better deal. The makeup of the Legislature changed over those years. They became much more -- much less sympathetic to the needs of the mentally ill, as time went on. And they became much more irritated by this lawsuit.
So I think that -- that earlier, if it would have gone less time, maybe if they would have even accepted the first legislative change, it might have been better for them in terms of the money.
I don't think -- they didn't ever get, except in this final lawsuit, any programmatic changes.
And I think those probably have the best chance of doing honest-to-God help for people who need it, you know, that need mental health services in Alaska. I thought the programmatic changes were the best part of that settlement. So...
Section 14: KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have a sense about why they didn't accept some of those earlier settlements --
MARY GREENE: The -- the first early one.
KAREN BREWSTER: Why it takes so -- just in general, why did it take so long? You know, why didn't they just settle?
MARY GREENE: Well, they weren't offered much. I mean, the first one, they -- they were very close to accepting. But I think that it was so hard to accept what the Legislature just gave you, you know, well, certainly if we honestly do negotiations, we're going to get more. And it turned out they didn't. At least I don't think they did. At least not in the next settlement, they didn't.
And they were -- they were trying, as they should, to get the most that they could for the beneficiaries.
I -- part of the reason that it went on so long, and -- and I've given a lot of thought to that, is that because it had to have a legislative backing to the settlement, there were really short windows of opportunity every year when they could reach a settlement.
So it was only when the Legislature was in session and listening that they could actually get a settlement approved.
And so -- or get a settlement out of the Legislature, as well as the Attorney General.
And so given those very small blocks of time, you know, that -- that -- that 10 or 12 years turned into a much shorter time. They didn't have a lot of time where they could continually negotiate.
And the other thing with -- that tends to be true with most lawyers is that if it's not pressing, you don't get it done. You know. And so even though they were -- they were frequently doing motions in my court, I don't know how -- how much they were working on settlement during some of those years.
The other thing of why it took so long is because I didn't push it harder. I thought that it really needed a legislative result. And the -- I could have made them file motions that would have resolved some of the issues along the way. I didn't do that. You know.
In retrospect, I probably should have, but you know, I was -- I was pretty much convinced that the Legislature just had to do it. But...
Section 15: BILL SCHNEIDER: How honest do you think all the parties were in terms of their recognition of the problem and desire to resolve it in a meaningful way for -- for people that were mentally in need?
MARY GREENE: Yeah, I never questioned any -- anybody's sincerity. I thought -- everyone was good advocates for their position.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And you thought that the -- the members of the state was -- was operating in good faith?
MARY GREENE: Depends on what part of the state we're talking about.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Well, the Department of Natural Resources.
MARY GREENE: Well, I -- I've yelled quite a bit at the Department of Natural Resources, on the record.
BILL SCHNEIDER: On the record?
MARY GREENE: On the record. The Department of Natural Resources was not -- was doing what they always do. They were not trying to protect the lands even despite the -- the Supreme Court's opinion that the trust had to be reconstituted.
And they weren't making decision -- they were making decisions like they always do, and DNR, because of the -- the kind of organization it is, has a lot of different things that it considers in -- in managing lands. You know, the best interests of the state, you know, which doesn't necessarily include getting the most money. In fact, they are quite cheap on a lot of things that they sell or that they get royalties on, or any number of things.
The trust had one -- one goal in mind -- one goal and one goal only, and that was to make money. And so DNR never made that switch during the time of the lawsuit. They -- they had to make the switch after the settlement. But they never looked at these lands as anything different from general grant lands.
They were -- were consistently doing things, making decisions that were not in the best interests of the beneficiaries, even on trusts -- on lands that were supposed to go back to the trust, and it was clear were supposed to go back to the
BILL SCHNEIDER: So did you have to take legal action against them on that?
MARY GREENE: Well, I -- I didn't take legal action against DNR. What I ended up doing was taking over a lot of the decisionmaking.
There was a preliminary injunction that I issued that DNR could not do land -- take actions on lands without my approval. They could make a decision but it had to have Court approval on the lands that we knew were going back into the trust before it took effect. And that was a very unpopular decision at DNR.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Were you driven to that decision or was that something you normally would have done?
MARY GREENE: Well, I would have expected DNR to recognize the Supreme Court's authority and start managing these lands in a different way, but they didn't do that. It was -- it was not until the hearings on the final settlement that -- the settlement that lasted, that I ever heard anybody in DNR acknowledge that they had a different responsibility toward these lands. And I told them then I was very happy to finally hear it, you know.
Section 16: BILL SCHNEIDER: But how did -- how did you deal with -- with these land issues? Did you have a land person working with you, or --
MARY GREENE: No. No. The -- the people -- the attorneys would bring me information, basically. Both sides. And I'd look at whether or not this was the best money deal for the -- whether or not it was a reasonable money deal for the -- for the trust.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And did -- pardon me for asking this, did -- did you have the background to do that?
MARY GREENE: Well, I can look at two deals and see whether or not -- which is -- which is more reasonable. If it was making the original decision, no, I didn't. You know. No. And it was -- it was very problematical. I would have much rather have DNR making the decisions, considering their trust responsibilities, but they weren't going to do that.
There was one in particular where I ended up turning down something that was probably good for the state, but it wasn't good for the -- the beneficiaries. You know. And I can't remember, it was some sort of mineral -- mineral development, I can't remember where or what, but you know, it probably nixed that deal.
And the trust lands were a fairly small part of the lands that were going to be leased. Most of it was state land. But they were going to get nothing for the lands that were trust lands because they -- they agreed -- they decided that they -- the way to get out of this problem with the Mental Health Trust was to just put all of the -- the associated buildings and infrastructure on those lands, and then all you have -- you don't have to pay mineral value, you just pay value of the rental of the lands, and since it's in God knows where, you know, you don't have to pay much.
But there was nothing to say that those lands under that had any less minerals than the lands over here. And so the trust wasn't getting its-- its fair share. And I said no. So. You know. No, it wasn't a task I -- I wanted, let me tell you.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
MARY GREENE: And -- but I would get -- the attorneys would provide me information from land experts on all those -- on those decisions. Not many of those decisions actually came to me. Thank heavens. But -- but yeah. It was -- it was very difficult.
The State Attorney General's Office was dealing in good faith.
BILL SCHNEIDER: It was acting in good faith?
MARY GREENE: Yeah. I think they were -- they were in perfectly good faith throughout the whole process. But DNR, yeah, was a little hardheaded about the whole thing.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
Section 17: KAREN BREWSTER: I've heard that there was controversy in terms of how to value the land, in coming to a decision about that
MARY GREENE: Oh.
KAREN BREWSTER: as well.
MARY GREENE: Sure. That was -- yeah, that was -- that was a major problem in terms of what was going to be a satisfactory replacement lands. And especially if you were looking at lands that are not known to have mineral content, for example, or lands that are big chunks of land that you don't have ordinary sales for, it's very difficult to value those.
In the -- in the settlement hearings that we held on the last -- the last settlement, that was one of the big issues was whether or not the -- the trust was getting valuable lands and replacement lands. And there were all sorts of people who testified that are, you know, experts in the field of mineral valuation.
The argument -- and this one very large chunk of land that was potentially mineral -- mineral deposits, I had values running -- running from zero to millions of dollars on value, you know, from different experts. And you know, you do what judges do all the time and you evaluate who is more likely right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you have to get involved in making decisions about those valuations --
MARY GREENE: Not individually. Not individually on most of them. And it came to me as a package.
And so I was looking at is this fair value for the lands that are gone, and so I could look at the entire part.
You know, some of it was clear. Some of the valuations were clear and weren't even contested much. But the big one was this large chunk of a potential mineral lands. And that was the one that was hardest fought.
Section 18: BILL SCHNEIDER: I just have two other questions. Are there some people that you think we ought to be talking to on this project?
MARY GREENE: I think it would be certainly useful to talk with -- with Jeff Jessee, who I assume you are talking with. The other plaintiffs' attorneys, Phil Volland was one. Let's see if I can remember the names. Actually, I might have them -- I might have them here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wasn't Gottstein one of them?
MARY GREENE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And he was a very active participant in all of this. And David Walker was the primary -- was the chief plaintiffs' counsel. Let's see. Yeah. Jim Gottstein. Most of the time the -- the -- the state was represented by Tom Koester.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Is he still --
MARY GREENE: Did I mention Phil Volland? Tom Koester?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
MARY GREENE: To the best of my knowledge. I think he is still an attorney in Juneau. He doesn't work for the state anymore, but -- did I mention Phil Volland?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MARY GREENE: Yeah. Okay. I think those were the main ones.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So -- and then for the Attorney General, who was -- was it Av Gross (ph)?
MARY GREENE: No -- well, it was -- it may have been at the beginning, but by the end, it was Charlie --
KAREN BREWSTER: Cole.
MARY GREENE: Cole, yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And so he was --
MARY GREENE: And Charlie was -- was very actively involved in the settlement, the end -- the last settlement. So he would certainly be somebody good to talk to.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And then at DNR, I know Esther Wunnicke was involved in the beginning.
MARY GREENE: Uhhum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But then who took -- took over for her?
MARY GREENE: I don't remember.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. I think I might -- must have that. My -- my other question, give me just a minute. Pardon me just a second while I --
MARY GREENE: Sure, no problem.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- while I check. Judith Brady, I think.
MARY GREENE: She actually --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Was over in the -- under the Cowper administration maybe.
MARY GREENE: Right. She would have been. And during that time, she was probably the one in the -- in the Legislature that was making most of the decisions on this case, since Steve Cowper, Governor Cowper at that time, was Vern Weiss' initial attorney. He's the one who filed the lawsuit.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh.
MARY GREENE: And so Governor Cowper decided as Governor that he couldn't have anything to do with the trust and the settlement litigation, because it was, you know, a conflict from his original -- he would have been in conflict with his original position with his client.
So there was -- there was sort of a lack of leadership in the state on the -- on the trust because of that, on the -- the settlement litigation. Because, yeah, there was no gubernatorial presence there.
So and he couldn't push his -- his commissioners into doing things either because he sort of totally took himself out of the -- out of the system.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That's pretty interesting.
KAREN BREWSTER: What about from the legislative angle?
MARY GREENE: Who to talk to?
KAREN BREWSTER: Who do I talk -- yeah.
MARY GREENE: Yeah. I don't -- you might talk to Brian Rogers during the early part. I think that Brian had some significant involvement in the early -- early days of this litigation.
And I don't know who -- the -- the attorneys can tell you much better about that. I never had any dealings with the Legislature, of course. So -- but the attorneys could tell you where to go.
Section 19: BILL SCHNEIDER: One final question that I have, maybe Karen has another one, what are -- what are -- what are we missing that we should be asking you? Is there anything that comes to your mind?
MARY GREENE: Not that I can think of. You know. It's -- it's a pretty good coverage of -- of the litigation itself. At least from the Court's view.
BILL SCHNEIDER: All right.
MARY GREENE: Yeah. It was huge and complex.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, thank you very much.
MARY GREENE: You're welcome.
KAREN BREWSTER: I have just two quick questions. One, that leads me to ask about what does this whole thing mean for the State of Alaska in the future, what has come out of all this?
MARY GREENE: The programmatic changes, certainly, have come out of it. And those are very positive for the people of the state of Alaska, and particularly the people who are beneficiaries of the trust.
The processees have some input from professionals that they never had before. The the -- the basic decisionmaking is better. Having the Mental Health Board as the kind of institution that it is, is really good.
One of the other things that they gain, that the beneficiaries gain is that their budget has to be considered separately from the other budget, the general budget, so it gets individual attention. That turns out to not be as -- quite as important as I hoped it was going to be because they do it in the same day, but -- but at least it was -- it was
The trust authority has a lot of influence, I think, and certainly can in the future. I think that the projects that the authority sponsors allow them and the state to have innovative ideas in these areas, you know, that the money's generally not there for. And that could be a huge thing for the state. So.
I'm not sure it's worth all of the expense, but -- but that's -- and, you know, depending on whether or not the lands turn out to be valuable, part of the basic funding of -- of the mental -- for mental health services could eventually come out of the trust, and therefore, save the rest of the state budget for other things. I think that's unlikely, but it's -- it's a possibility.
Section 20: KAREN BREWSTER: And then what has all this meant for you? I mean, you were immersed in it for 10 years.
MARY GREENE: Actually, yeah, I was. It probably contributed to a few of my gray hairs. You know. It was -- it was a lot of work but it was very interesting. And it -- it took up an incredible amount of my time, but it was for a good cause.
KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know if we want to get into this, but the Mental Health Commission that George Rogers was involved in, that was a state commission; is that correct?
MARY GREENE: I think so.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you don't have -- you didn't it didn't intersect with any of your --
MARY GREENE: No, I think it came after --
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
MARY GREENE: the end of the case, but I'm not real sure about that.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: All right.
MARY GREENE: Okay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Thanks.
MARY GREENE: Sure.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Very good.