Saturday, October 09, 2010

Embattled Anchorage District Court Judge Richard Postma Speaks Out In His Own Defense

On October 8th, 2010, under the guise of responding to Alaska Voices columnist Kevin Clarkson's previous defense of Anchorage District Court Judge Richard Postma, Alaska Judicial Council Executive Director Larry Cohn launched a fresh attack on Judge Postma in the Anchorage Daily News. Cohn's additional objective was to justify the decision by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC) to recommend a "No" vote for the retention of Judge Postma in the November 2nd election, previously discussed HERE. You can read more background on this case in my posts from May 5th, 2010 and May 7th, 2010. Ratings for all judges up for retention can be found HERE.

Cohn cites three instances to defend the AJC's decision:

-- In September 2009, Judge Postma demanded to be placed on paid administrative leave or be assigned non-courtroom responsibilities in which case he would "come into work and spend the day throwing up in my office bathroom." At his request, the court placed Judge Postma on paid administrative leave for about six weeks. Then, Judge Postma falsely and repeatedly claimed he had been suspended.

-- In December [2009], Judge Postma sent angry e-mails containing false allegations in the middle of the night to other judges and court staff. His frequent loss of temper and instability required the court to disable Judge Postma's security access to the Anchorage courthouse.

-- In April [2010], the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct found probable cause that Judge Postma suffers from mental health difficulties that are or may become permanent and which render him unable to fulfill the duties of his office. [Ed. Note: This is based on a four-page ethics complaint filed against Judge Postma; read Postma's 25-page response HERE.]

The latter instance is most troubling, because it is ambiguous and difficult to defend against. So we're supposed to reject a judge simply because some psychobabbler pronounces him "cuckoo"? Fortunately, Judge Postma has decided to take to cyberspace to tell his story and defend himself, since the Alaska media doesn't appear interested in allowing him to tell his story. Postma has established a standard website and a facebook page:



On his standard website, Judge Postma explains that he's objected to the Anchorage practice of pre-signing orders before in-custody hearings because judges should not cut corners. A judge should sign such orders at the end of a hearing, not before it starts, because at a minimum this gives the appearance that the defendant's bail or conditions of release have been prejudged, and because it is the judge and not the clerk who is ultimately responsible for the content of the order.

Judge Postma also notes that because a judge has an ethical obligation to both uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary and to safeguard it against bias and prejudice, he has challenged the Anchorage District Court's extensive use of a centralized calendaring system. The Anchorage District Court is the only court in Alaska to use such a system. The problem, as he sees it, is that this system places the interests of a few court system administrators above the public's interest in an efficient, fair and speedy justice system. It also lacks safeguards to protect the public, judicial officers, and other court system employees from the whims, manipulations and acts of favoritism by a few unelected bureaucrats.

Judge Postma also provides links to his 25-page response to the ethics complaint as well as his 31-page motion to dismiss for prosecutorial misconduct. Postma cites three reasons for the motion. First, the complaint violates his due process rights because the investigation and prosecution of this matter appears to have been motivated by impermissible reasons; namely, to penalize him for invoking legally protected rights. Second, the AJC violated his self-executing constitutional right to privacy when it identified him by name in the complaint and publicly issued a press release alleging that he suffers from a mental disability without enacting privacy protection regulations and allowing him to seek to remain anonymous. And third, the AJC's complaint selectively charged him with violating AS 22.30.060 (Rules and Confidentiality), which Postma claims the AJC repeatedly violated during the investigation.

Because this issue is unlikely to be adjudicated before the November 2nd election, a "No" vote on Judge Postma's retention is likely to encourage the Alaska judiciary to sweep the allegations about the calendaring system and the issues raised in this motion under the rug. Consequently, a "Yes" vote to retain Judge Postma would afford him a full opportunity to clear his name and force the issues he's public raised to be scrutinized.



  2. Given the specific facts that are available on this blog and Judge Postma's website, and the lack of specifics in Cohn's opinion piece, this is starting to look like the old Soviet/Nazi tactic of labeling legitimate dissentors as mentally ill. If any of the facts in Postma's motion to dismiss are true, Cohn has been engaged in quasi-criminal misconduct. This is a sad episode for Alaska.

  3. Wow, look at some of the other judges. The police totally panned Judge Kristiansen, her survey scores are lower than Postma's. Does she have a mental illness?
    Yet, I've only heard good things about her. And the judicial council unanimously voted to retain her. Can any of these surveys or judicial council recommendations be trusted?

  4. Check out Postma's website. The monkey photo that Cohn mentions in his opinion piece was dismissed by the ACJC on Oct. 6, three days ago.

    The ACJC tried to amend the charges on Oct. 23 with the monkey photo:

    Postma's attorney files an opposition showing more ACJC misconduct, and arguing the photo is legitimate comment on an internal courthouse dispute made public by the Commission and protected by the First Amendment during an election season:

    On Oct. 6, the ACJC denies it own motion to amend:

    What a joke! So Larry Cohn can't convince his own agency to charge Postma with the monkey photo, so when he doesn't get his way he writes an editorial hit piece instead to continue smearing Postma? Talk about a sore loser. If this is the best Cohn has, then it looks more and more like the Council's case against Postma is pretty weak and falling apart. And Cohn looks petty and vindictive. This is pathetic.

  5. Has anyone demanded cohn be tested for mental illness? Who knows he may be insane,delusional,or a ranting lunatic.Was he tested for drugs?.

  6. Look at the timing between the Judicial Council's actions against Postma and when McKay was pulled over for his second DWI. Is Postma the one who called 911 to report a drunk driver? Is the judicial council mad because Postma ratted out their buddy McKay? Cohn's piece makes me suspicious.

  7. Thanks for covering this so thoroughly. Your insights and thorough aggregation of the data (with the sources) is invaluable. On a related topic, I'd love to hear what you have to say on Justice Fabe, in light of the campaign.

  8. Wow! You have done a phenomenal job of covering this!!! Thanks for filling the void. ADN really dropped the ball. Thanks for picking it up.

    I'm voting "Yes" on Postma and "no" on McKay. I'm still looking into the others.