The longest serving magistrate in Alaska is no longer on the bench after writing letters to the editor critical of the Republican Party.
Former Seward Magistrate George Peck wrote four letters to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News, the latest in December which claimed the Republican Party “is actively trying to steer the U.S. into an authoritarian kleptocracy.”
The other letters written since 2019 have been critical of former President Donald Trump and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, both Republicans, and the GOP, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Peck did not note his judicial position when signing in the letters, and there have been no complaints filed against him. However, his supervisor, Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse, ordered the court’s human resources department to investigate.
Morse said in a formal decision last Wednesday that Peck’s letter was in violation of Alaska’s code of judicial conduct.
“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 off the bench, can become inextricably tied to your position, especially in a small community where you are the sole judicial officer,” Morse said.
When the 81-year-old Peck was informed Wednesday that he would be fired two days later, he instead immediately submitted his resignation and worked his last day Thursday.
Peck told the Anchorage newspaper that he doesn’t regret the letter and said he was just “stating a fact that the Republican Party tried to overturn the election, which I think most people agree on.”
He also doesn’t blame the juridical system for forcing him out.
“Clearly, they were justified in doing what they’re doing,” Peck said. “I just think they could have found a little better way to do it, but that’s up to them.”
Peck began working as a magistrate judge in 1976 and retired from full-time work in 2016. The court system kept him working on a temporary, part-time basis.
Magistrates oversee minor judicial matters in the court system, such as traffic violations, small-claims cases and time-sensitive matters, such as search warrants and domestic violence cases.
However, magistrates must follow the same code of judicial conduct as judges, which in part says they can’t act in a way that casts doubt on a judge’s capacity to act impartially.
They also are not allowed to publicly endorse or oppose a candidate, such as Dunleavy who is seeking re-election.
Dunleavy’s office said they were not aware of Peck’s letters in the newspaper, and said the governor was not contacted about the Peck investigation.
Peck will be replaced by a full-time magistrate overseeing the communities of Seward and Homer.