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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.


The Mississippi Supreme Court is holding a ceremony Monday for Justice Kenny Griffis to begin a new term of office.

Griffis served 16 years on the state Court of Appeals. In February 2019, then-Gov. Phil Bryant appointed him to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court.

Griffis won an election to the Supreme Court in November 2020. The court has nine justices, and Griffis holds one of two seats with a delay of more than a year between the election and the beginning of the new term.

During the ceremony Monday at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson, Griffis will take the oath for an eight-year term.

Griffis is a Meridian native who now lives in Ridgeland. He earned accounting and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. He is an adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Griffis was chief judge of the 10-member Court of Appeals when Bryant moved him to the Supreme Court.


From court losses to political pressure to questions about how — and if — athletes should be compensated, the NCAA and college sports have faced all sorts of potential existential threats for more than 100 years.

The difference in 2021 was volume. It was as if a century’s worth of issues fell on college sports all at once.

Lawmakers took aim at the NCAA, undercutting its ability to govern. The Supreme Court issued a scathing rebuke of the so-called collegiate model. Internally, a new era of athlete empowerment was clumsily ushered in with all sorts of unintended consequences. Another wave of conference realignment swept through college sports, causing disruptions and distrust among its leaders.

“I think it is unquestionably an unprecedented potential crisis the NCAA is facing today,” said Gabe Feldman, the director of Tulane University’s sports law program.

If 2021 was about upheaval in college sports, 2022 will be largely defined by reform. College sports leaders will attempt to redefine the NCAA. The goal is to s hift power away from the national governing body to conferences and schools, while still maintaining the association; To be more accommodating to the wide-ranging goals and needs of a wildly diverse membership, while still remaining tethered through competition.

“I see value in the national association,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I see value in the big tent. But we’re challenged in new ways.”

Sankey has been appointed co-chairperson of the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee, along with Ohio University athletic director Julie Cromer.

That group will begin its work in earnest after the NCAA convention in late January, when a new pared-down constitution is expected to be ratified by membership. That will open the door for each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create a unique governance structure.

For Divisions II and III that will mean little change. In Division I, which is comprised of 350 schools that compete in the NCAA’s biggest championship events — such as the March Madness basketball tournaments — the transformation could be radical.


A federal appeals court has upheld the mask requirement for Knox County Schools.

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit panel on Monday denied the school board’s request to pause the mask requirement while the issue is debated in court, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer ruled in September the school system must adopt a mask mandate to help protect children with health problems more susceptible to the coronavirus pandemic.

Knox County Schools argued virtual classes are a reasonable accommodation, but children attend at home and must be supervised.

“Like the district court, we are not persuaded that virtual schooling is a reasonable alternative to universal masking,” the appeals court wrote. The full appeal of the Knox County case will be heard at a later date, the newspaper reported.

Knox County adopted a mask mandate during the 2020-21 school year but chose not to this year despite COVID-19 numbers that remained high. Public health agencies say indoor mask-wearing is a key coronavirus-prevention tool.



The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a conservative think tank over Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to exclude the group’s writers from press briefings.

The justices acted without comment Monday, leaving in place lower court rulings that said the decision is legal.

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy filed the lawsuit in 2019 alleging that Evers, a Democrat, violated its staffers’ constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of the press and equal access.

Former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, had joined in the institute’s bid for high-court review. Evers defeated Walker in 2018.

Last year, a federal judge rejected the group’s arguments, saying MacIver can still report on Evers without being invited to his press briefings or being on his email distribution list. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that ruling in April.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker had urged the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that the ruling in favor of Evers allows censorship because it permits picking and choosing which reporters attend press events that have long been open to reporters but closed to the general public.

The appeals court ruled that Evers’ media-access criteria was reasonable and he was under no obligation to grant access for every news outlet to every news conference.

MacIver had argued that Evers was excluding its staffers and violating their free speech rights because they are conservatives. Evers said they were excluded because they are not principally a news gathering operation and they are not neutral.

Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback did not immediately return a message Monday seeking comment on the Supreme Court’s decision. MacIver’s attorney Dan Suhr also did not immediately return a message.

MacIver covers legislative meetings and other events at the Capitol as well as some Evers news conferences. But the institute sued after being excluded from a media briefing Evers gave for reporters on his state budget proposal in 2019. Evers wasn’t present, but members of his administration provided information to reporters on embargo ahead of his budget speech to the Legislature that evening.

The appeals court noted that a limited number of reporters were allowed into the event. Reporters from The Associated Press, along with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal, were among those present for that briefing.

Former governors, including Walker, also limited the number of reporters and news outlets that could attend budget briefings and other events.


North Carolina’s highest court on Wednesday pushed back the March election primaries for legislative, congressional and judicial seats to give state courts time to review lawsuits claiming the Republican-controlled legislature illegally gerrymandered some districts.

The decision by the state Supreme Court comes after a state Court of Appeals panel initially blocked filing for legislative and congressional candidates on Monday, only to have the decision reversed when the full 15-member intermediate appeals court was asked to weigh in on the matter. Filing began Tuesday for those races instead.

Wednesday’s order suspends all candidate filing in the state until the litigation is resolved and delays the March 8 primary for two months. The Supreme Court says three trial judges hearing a pair of lawsuits must rule by Jan. 11. The ruling will then likely be appealed.

The delay is being granted “in light of the great public interest” in the matter and “the need for urgency in reaching a final resolution ... at the earliest possible opportunity,” the order reads.

Primary elections for the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. House, General Assembly and judicial seats, along with elections for other local posts, will now be held May 17, according to the order.

The groups that filed the lawsuits — the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and math experts in one case and voters backed by an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in the other — have said voters would be irrevocably harmed if elections went forward under the approved lines.

The lawsuits claim the legislature manipulated the boundaries according to the political leanings of voters, the racial composition of voters, or both. In doing so, the suits say, lawmakers gave Republicans nearly unbreakable majorities in the state House and Senate and nearly assured victories in at least 10 of the 14 U.S. House seats starting with the 2022 elections. The state is closely divided in statewide elections.

Republicans hold eight of the 13 current House seats. North Carolina is getting an additional seat due to population growth, so the delegation’s partisan composition could affect whether the GOP regains the U.S. House next year.


As the Supreme Court court weighs the future of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a resurgent anti-abortion movement is looking to press its advantage in state-by-state battles while abortion-rights supporters prepare to play defense.

Both sides seem to be operating on the assumption that a court reshaped by former President Donald Trump will either overturn or seriously weaken Roe.

“We have a storm to weather,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. “We have to weather the storm so that in the future — five, 10, 15 years from now — we’re talking about how we managed to repeal all these abortion bans.”

The institute estimates that as many as 26 states would institute some sort of abortion-access restrictions within a year, if permitted by the court. At least 12 states have “trigger bans” on the books, with restrictions that would kick in automatically if the justices overturn or weaken federal protections on abortion access.

The current case before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerns a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roe v. Wade, which was reaffirmed in a subsequent 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, allows states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks.

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