This Friday, a pretrial hearing begins for former Alaska District Judge Margaret Murphy. In June she pleaded not guilty to felony perjury, but if convicted she faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

Former Alaska District Judge Margaret Murphy

The case has drawn considerable attention among Alaska advocates for judicial reform, and the Homer Courthouse is expected to be packed on Aug. 18.

Murphy’s initial June 23 arraignment was hailed by Alaska grand jury advocates as a historic moment in the ongoing effort to root out corruption in the state’s judiciary.

Murphy served as a judge in Alaska’s Third Judicial District, and retired in 2019. Over the past year, she has been the subject of a wider Kenai Grand Jury investigation into allegations of systemic corruption within Alaska’s judicial system. Last year, she was subpoenaed and questioned about possible corruption.

Under state law, perjury is committed when a person knowingly “makes a false sworn statement which the person does not believe to be true.”

While the details of Murphy’s alleged crime are not well known, her case has generated intense interest from a growing grassroots advocacy group called Alaska Grand Jurors Association. The organization works to root out corruption in the judicial branch.

“This investigation, indictment, and pretrial hearing comes after 30 years of unconstitutional suppression of Alaska Grand Jury rights to investigate and indict government officials,” the group’s website states. “Alaska Grand Jurors Association believes it is critical that as many people as possible attend Judge Murphy’s pretrial hearing.  It is important to show the government that the public is watching.  Help let Grand Jurors know we honor their bravery and have their back.”

The ability of Alaska grand juries to freely investigate corruption has been the source of heated debate over the past year. This dispute intensified after the Alaska Supreme Court issued Court Order 1993 late last year, which sought to limit the grand jury’s authority to investigate and indict corrupt judges and public officials.

Over the past year, the Kenai Grand Jury has investigated a number of judicial corruption allegations, which could result in additional charges against more government officials and judges.

Murphy’s June arraignment in Kenai saw more than 50 people in the gallery, driving from all over Southcentral Alaska to attend.

The upcoming pretrial hearing was initially set to take place at the Kenai Courthouse as well, but presiding Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews decided to move the venue to Homer where Murphy served on the bench.

Both parties agreed.

“Based on the allegation that the alleged crime occurred in Homer, this transfer appears to be legally appropriate, as generally speaking criminal trials should be held where the alleged offense occurred,” Matthews noted in his decision to change the location. “The Alaska Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to have a jury selected from a pool that represents ‘a fair cross section of the community’ in which the crime allegedly occurred.’”

He added that Homer does present some challenges, however, given the smaller facility.

“In addition, the Defendant is well known there, and there has already been pretrial publicity about the case,” Matthews observed. “There is considerable public interest in the case.”

Alaska Grand Jurors Association claims Murphy has been the subject of “many complaints” over the years.

“If you have had a case overseen by Judge Murphy, you may want to pay a little more attention to how this plays out,” the group’s website states. “Margaret Murphy is looking at a fine of $100,000 and up to 10 years in jail. This might seem like a lot but if you weigh the fact that her lies could have cost someone their livelihood, the tools for earning a living, or made someone a criminal, then in fact her lies probably cost a lot more than she will be paying if convicted.”

The group is encouraging people to turn out for the Aug. 18 hearing. They also invite those who have credible allegations against Murphy to contact them at

Over the past year, the Kenai Grand Jury has investigated a number of judicial corruption allegations, which could result in additional charges against more government officials and judges.


— Murphy’s pretrial hearing is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Aug. 18. at the Homer Courthouse. It is open to the public.

— Those who wish to follow the trial via Zoom can do so at this link.

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Packed court expected for start of felony perjury trial for former Alaska judge

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.