Federal judge orders governor to invite Alaska Landmine owner to news conferences

A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of political writer Jeff Landfield by issuing an injunction that requires Gov. Mike Dunleavy to invite Landfield to press conferences.

Landfield, the owner and operator of The Alaska Landmine website, sued the governor over his exclusion from press conferences.

Attorneys from the Alaska Department of Law said in written and verbal arguments that because the governor’s office does not credential members of the media and thus does not set standards for admittance to press conferences, Landfield cannot sue on First Amendment grounds because there is nothing to challenge.

Judge Joshua Kindred disagreed with that argument, saying Landfield was denied due process.

He concluded that members of the media do have the right under the First Amendment to be invited to press conferences, though the governor may deny them the ability to ask questions and may choose not to answer any questions he is asked.

Kindred further concluded that lack of written admittance rules does not mean the governor’s office can make decisions on an ad-hoc basis.

“Acceptance of the government’s arguments would effectively stand for the proposition that First Amendment rights do not exist for any members of the media in Alaska,” he wrote in a footnote.

Friday’s injunction does not require Dunleavy or his communications team to adopt a formal written process, but they must invite Landfield to future events while legal proceedings continue.

Landfield, a former candidate for the state Senate, writes about the Alaska Legislature, state government and politics.