Alaskan court system dismisses investigating judge for writing public letter criticizing Republican Party

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Alaska’s court system on Wednesday sacked the state’s longest-serving magistrate after writing a letter to the editor saying the Republican Party “is actively trying to drag the United States into an authoritarian kleptocracy.”

The letter, published in December, was one of four Seward Magistrate George Peck wrote to the Daily News to criticize former President Donald Trump, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and the Republican Party since 2019.

Peck did not state his judicial position in those letters, and no complaints against Peck have been filed in the past year, but Peck’s immediate supervisor, Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse, has ordered the human resources department of the justice system to investigate.

After the investigation, Morse said in an official ruling on Wednesday that Peck’s letter violated Alaska’s judicial code of conduct.

“As a trial judge, the public entrusts you with the task of deciding cases with the greatest fairness, independence and impartiality. The power of your own voice, even expressed outside of court, can become inextricably linked to your position, especially in a small community where you are the sole bailiff, ”Morse said.

Peck will be replaced by a full-time permanent magistrate judge serving both Seward and Homer, he said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has not been contacted about the decision to fire Peck, and his deputy director of communications said the governor’s office was not aware of Peck’s letter or the dismissal until that he be contacted for this article.

Peck, 81, has worked as an investigating judge since 1976. He retired from his full-time job in 2016, but the justice system kept him on a temporary, part-time basis.

Informed on Wednesday that he would be made redundant on Friday, he tendered his resignation and worked his last day on Thursday.

Peck said he did not regret the letter and said he was “simply stating a fact that the Republican Party attempted to call off the election, which I think most people agree with.”

He also doesn’t blame Morse’s decision.

“Obviously they were justified in doing what they’re doing,” Peck said of his dismissal. “I just think they could have found a better way to do it, but that’s up to them.”

“It’s as if you had a tenant who has been there for 46 years, who has paid the rent, who has never bothered the neighbors, but they made a technical mistake and you are evicting them in two days”, a- he declared.

Alaska’s constitution requires judges to be apolitical and chosen on the basis of merit.

Presiding Judges are the lowest-level officials in the Alaskan court system, overseeing traffic violations, small claims cases, and certain urgent matters, such as search warrants and domestic violence cases. .

They do not need to be lawyers and are appointed by a Superior Court judge rather than the governor. Despite this difference, they must follow the same code of judicial conduct as higher-level judges. This code states, in part, that a judge must act in such a way as not to “cast a reasonable doubt on the capacity of the judge to act impartially as a judge”.

Another article states that a judge or a candidate for appointment to judicial office must not “publicly approve or oppose a candidate for public office”. Dunleavy made his 2022 re-election campaign official in August.

The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct does not deal with complaints against magistrates, but its executive director, Marla Greenstein, told Peck in an email this week that if his letter “was written by a judge of ‘a state court, the commission would have recommended disciplinary action. “

She confirmed her statement in an interview on Friday.

“While as a trial judge you cannot directly hear cases involving the governor or the Republican Party, members of your community who would appear before you are likely supporters of both. Your letter was a public statement that you do not respect these entities, ”she told Peck.

She concluded her message by telling him that she hopes he can now enjoy his retirement.

Peck said he intended to do so.

“I love music. I love art. I just got back from a bike ride. So I have a lot to do and I would like to get involved a bit on climate change, bring our community to We’d like to make Seward a little more self-sufficient and a little more energy efficient. There’s just a million things to do, “he said.


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