Court rules Alaska lawmaker eligible for office despite Oath Keepers membership News
© WikiMedia (Tyler Merbler)
Court rules Alaska lawmaker eligible for office despite Oath Keepers membership

An Alaskan Superior Court in Anchorage on Friday denied a challenge to Alaskan lawmaker David Eastman’s eligibility for office based on his membership in the Oath Keepers. State Representative Eastman’s eligibility was questioned by constituents due to Eastman’s membership in the anti-government, extremist organization with militia ties. The founder and leader of the Oath Keepers was found guilty of seditious conspiracy and a variety of other charges stemming from the January 6 insurrection. 

One of Eastman’s constituents filed suit against him claiming the representative is disqualified for office under the state’s constitution disloyalty clause. Under Article XII Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution, any person who supports or belongs to an organization advocating for the “overthrow by force or violence” of the state or federal government is disqualified for office. 

Representative Eastman testified that he was a “founding, lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers. He has not renounced the organization or resigned his membership in the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol attack, despite his acknowledgement of Oath Keepers involvement. Eastman claimed he did not support the insurrection or violence used.

In his 49-page opinion, Judge McKenna found that Eastman is not disqualified from office under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Though the court found that the Oath Keepers, as an organization, did encourage direct, violent action to overthrow the US government, Judge McKenna reasoned that the Alaskan constitution cannot prevent individuals from holding office due to their mere affiliation with a violent organization. According to Judge McKenna, an individual must have “specific intent to further…the conduct of the organization” for the disloyalty clause to prevail. 

In the law enforcement sector, ties to the Oath Keepers are concerns for the Biden administration and federal agencies, especially in light of a recent report elaborating on the number of law enforcement officials who are members of the Oath Keepers.

The court will hold a status hearing in early January to resolve further issues and proceed if appeals have been filed.