Sunday’s ADN reported on the termination of employment for the magistrate in Seward. His transgression was apparently writing objectionable letters to the editor. Full disclosure: I worked for the Alaska Court System many years ago and was there at the time the Seward magistrate was first employed. I have had no contact with him since 1981.
I offer no opinion on the substance of the termination decision. My observations focus on the process. Some may have heard the term “constructive and progressive discipline.” Basically, it is the employer’s application of a sequence of responses in an attempt to remedy employee behavior it finds unacceptable. Very often, termination of employment is the final step in the series.
The executive director of the Commission on Judicial Conduct alluded to this practice when she noted that similar behavior by a judge would (likely) result in a disciplinary recommendation. It was telling that she did not say “removal from the bench.” The ADN article points out that the Seward magistrate wrote similar letters to the editor a total four times. Was he counseled after any of the first three? Did the presiding judge offer him an opportunity to take corrective action? Answers to these questions were not found in the article.
Since we rely on the judiciary to protect our due process rights, one would expect the court’s own human resource procedures would include these steps. Again, the article was silent on that.
One last observation: Alaska’s Constitution says that justices and judges must retire by age 70. The former Seward magistrate is 81.
— Ted Moninski
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