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Anti-Choice Group: ‘Fire’ Alaska Justices Over Abortion Decision

Nicole Knight

Alaska Family Action tried and failed in 2010 and 2012 to unseat justices over abortion-related decisions.

The Alaskan arm of the anti-choice Family Research Council is campaigning to unseat two state Supreme Court justices who were part of a recent court decision striking down a parental notification law.

The two justices targeted by anti-choice activists were part of a majority decision in July that deemed the state’s parental notification law unconstitutional. The measure required people younger than age 18 to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before receiving abortion care.

Now Alaska’s abortion-rights opponents are aiming to unseat two justices on November’s ballot and gain an anti-choice majority on the five-seat court. The justices being targeted, Joel Bolger and Peter Maassen, are both up for a retention vote, which the Alaska Constitution requires periodically.

An online campaign created by Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action, urges voters to unseat the justices, saying: “Parental notice law shot down by AK Supreme Court. It’s time to fire Justice Joel Bolger & Justice Peter Maassen !”

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Alaska Family Action is a political action offshoot of Alaska Family Council, an affiliate of the Family Research Council, which works with lawmakers and policymakers nationwide to advance anti-choice measures and discriminatory “religious freedom” measures.

“We think Alaskans should have the final say on this issue,” Minnery told Alaska Public Media this week. “And one of the ways to do that is to send a message to the Court that they overstepped their bounds.”

Maassen has served on the court since 2012, and Bolger since 2013.

“By retiring Justice Bolger and Justice Maassen,” the online campaign says, “we will right a wrong and give Governor Walker an opportunity to appoint two new AK Supreme Court Justices who will respect the rule of law.”

Alaska Family Action tried and failed in 2010 and 2012 to unseat justices over abortion-related decisions, as Alaska Public Media has reported. Justices Maassen and Bolger were not the targets in those campaigns.

Alaska owes nearly $1 million in legal fees for its battle over the parental notification measure, as Rewire reported. Enacted through a 2010 ballot initiative, the law’s sponsors included state Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) and Kim Hummer-Minnery, who is married to Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council.

The Alaska Judicial Council, a nonpartisan independent agency, recommended voters retain both justices.

Susanne DiPietro, executive director of the Judicial Council, suggested Alaska voters refrain from casting their vote based one decision—in this case, the parental notification law.

“Doesn’t it make more sense to evaluate their performance on more objective criteria?” DiPietro told Alaska Public Media. “How hard do they work? How fair are they? Do people, when they go in there and they make their arguments to that judge–whether they won or they lost—do they feel like they heard them, that they got a fair hearing?”

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