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The justices of the Alaska Supreme Court have called for improvements within the judicial system to ensure equitable and fair treatment for people of color. The four justices posted a letter online Friday saying there needs to be systematic improvements for African Americans, Alaska Natives and other groups.

The letter is addressed to “Fellow Alaskans” and signed by Chief Justice Joel Bolger and Justices Daniel Winfree, Peter Maassen and Susan Carney. Justice Craig Stowers retired June 1, and his seat has not yet been filled.

The justices referred to the ongoing social unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, 46, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

“As we watch events unfolding in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, we are saddened to see again that the ideals on which our society is founded are far from the reality of many people’s lives,” the letter said.

The justices said they must “provide an accessible and impartial forum” for cases. “We recognize that too often African-Americans, Alaska Natives, and other people of color are not treated with the same dignity and respect as white members of our communities," the justices wrote. “And we recognize that as community members, lawyers, and especially as judicial officers, we must do more to change this reality.”

They wrote that there needs to be a continued effort to make the court system “reflect the community that we serve." The justices said they would continue to work with the court's advisory Fairness and Access Commission and outreach programs such as The Color of Justice.

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