Archive for May 5th, 2010
The Anchorage Daily News reports that District Court Judge Richard Postma is the subject to a complaint by the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. According to the Daily News,
An independent mental health expert evaluated Postma in April. The complaint says that the doctor determined Postma has a disability that “seriously interferes with the performance of duties and is or may become permanent.” The complaint does not further detail the disability.
Several aspects of this little article are remarkable.
First, it is rare that the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly acts against an Alaska judge. Statistics don’t seem to be available, and the very strict confidentiality requirements hamper investigation. While the Alaska Judicial Council will sometimes recommend against retention of a judge in a retention election, public action by the Judicial Conduct Commission is much more rare. Again, because of confidentiality rules, non-public action, in which some kind of private reprimand is given, is never known to the public.
Second, when a complaint is filed and becomes public, it is rare that the basis for a complaint becomes public. There is an unusual amount of detail in this public complaint, including the fact that Judge Postma has been evaluated by and “independent mental health expert.” That “level of anger” that the complaint obscurely mentions must be fairly shocking.
Judge Postma was appointed to the Anchorage District Court on June 14, 2007, by Palin, replacing Judge Jack Smith. That means Judge Postma would be standing for election this fall. WC wonders just how serious those “mental health difficulties that ‘render him likely to be unable to fulfill the duties expected of a district court judge in Anchorage’” must be if the Judicial Conduct Commission believes it must act now, rather than letting the Judicial Council review process go ahead.
WC wonders, too, if the level of detail in the Commission’s complaint – the only public document that will come out of the Commission until the hearing is under way – might not be intended to gently (or not so gently) encourage Judge Postma to resign?
The repeated references to “disability” mean that the Commssion could recommend to the Alaska Supreme Court that Judge Postma be “retired” because of his disability, which would apparently entitle him to 15% of a district court judge’s salary the rest of his life, and some health insurance benefits as well. See AS 22.25.010(b) and 22.25.020. And when a disability is involved, the Commission bears all the costs; Commission Rule 17(b)(3). Not bad for someone with apparent anger management issues.
UPDATE 07 May 10: Judge Postma, represented by Tom Van Flein, reportedly claims that the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s complaint is motivated by racism, because Judge Postma is Hispanic. Oh, and that Judge Postma intends to clear his name. Tom, who has never been exactly temperate as an attorney, might keep in mind that the Commission is composed of nine persons: three serving judges (Kauvar, Esch and Collins), none of them from Anchorage; three attorneys (Ostrovsky, Nave and Aschenbrenner); and three public members (Novak, Sheldon and Brown). Tom is accusing those nine persons of not being able to distinguish racism from anger management issues. And the unnamed mental health professional of sucking up to the “judicial bureaucracy.” What are the odds?
Judge Kauvar, a District Court Judge like Judge Postma, has served since 1981. She has heard every conceivable – and some inconceivable – excuse and rationale. Tom is saying those sly “judicial bureaucrats” put one by Judge Kauvar? What are the odds?
The racism card isn’t going to work, Tom. How about defending the case on its merits?