Alaskans already know judges in Alaska trend liberal. That’s because the governors who appoint them must choose, per the Alaska Constitution, from a short list provided by the Alaska Judicial Council, which is ever-stacked with members of the Alaska Bar Association, a liberal trade association. The offerings have leaned Left for generations.
But a magistrate judge in Seward took partisan leanings to a whole new level by writing letters to the Anchorage Daily News in which he disparaged the Republican Party, its members, and by inference all those who vote Republican. In a letter in December, Seward Magistrate George Peck wrote a letter titled “Protecting Our Rights” that was the final straw for his career.
“Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s recent commentary promised that government’s infringement on our rights will ‘not go unchecked’ by his party. This is rich, coming from a leader within the party whose members recently and vigorously tried to disenfranchise 81 million voters and whose party is actively trying to steer the US. into an authoritarian kleptocracy,” Peck wrote.
It wasn’t the only such letter Peck has had published by the ADN regarding his view about the poor traits of Republicans.
“Now that it is clear that a majority of Republican politicians and voters are okay with the recent attempt at sedition by their president, it makes you wonder if they will succeed next time,” Peck wrote to the ADN in February of 2021.
But the most recent letter written by Peck was published after Dunleavy had declared himself to be a candidate for re-election. While the earlier letter may have seemed inappropriate to many, the December one clearly broke the Code of Judicial Conduct, and for that, Peck has lost his job.
Peck came to Alaska to be a magistrate in 1974 and has been one ever since. After retiring in 2016, he has served as a temporary magistrate since then, but the letter that published by the ADN in December was too much for Judge William Morse, presiding judge for the Third Judicial District.
“Renewal of your temporary appointment is currently up for review. To determine if your temporary appointment should be extended, I considered the business needs of the Seward court and your ability to meet those needs,” Morse wrote in his letter to Peck.
“When questioned, you confirmed that you were the author of this letter and that you wrote it, ‘because of the
current anti-democratic behavior of the republican party.” You did not believe writing this letter could create an ethical concern under the Code of Judicial Conduct and that it would not impact public perception about your ability be fair and impartial. when deciding cases where the State of Alaska is a party participant. I disagree. The Judicial Cannons require that in all activities you act in a manner hat promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. You shall not allow politics to influence your conduct or judgement. As a Magistrate Judge, the public entrusts you to decide cases with the utmost fairness, independence, and impartiality. The power of your own voice, even when expressed of the bench, can become inextricably tied to your position, especially in a small community where you are the sole judicial officer,” wrote Morse.
Morse said that the district needs a full-time magistrate, anyway, to handle the workload. and that as of Jan. 7, Peck’s services are “no longer needed.” He reminded Peck that personnel rules outline that his appointment was as an “at-will” employee and he is not eligible to file a grievance, unless he has a complaint to make about discrimination.
Peck moved to Alaska in 1974 after working in Nepal in the Peace Corps and spending nearly a decade at the University of Idaho, where he got degrees in physics, law, and teaching, according to a story in The Atlantic Magazine, which did a feature on him as a talented self-taught unicyclist.
Peck has been a member of the Alaska Bar Association since 1975, and as a longtime State of Alaska employee, no doubt has a handsome Tier 1 retirement package that will easily cover his cost of living — and then some. The average magistrate judge in Alaska, according to Salary.com, is $191,959, falling somewhere between $188,291 and $214,822.