Judicial Non-Retention

The Judicial Council today recommended voters approve to keep twenty-seven judicial appointments on the bench when they stand for retention this fall.  However, the council also recommended against retention of one judge – Anchorage District Court Judge Richard Postma.

He is also the subject of a probable cause complaint from another, separate agency — the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.  That complaint will be resolved by the Conduct Commission in a hearing in early December – after the election.

The Judicial Council’s executive director Larry Cohn says the recommendation of non-retention is not connected to the conduct complaint. He says it is the result of a complete investigation.

We conduct interviews, we review court records, we’ve reviewed correspondence and personnel records and things of those nature.   So the council considered all of that, including the conduct commission’s proceedings, and determined they wanted to recommend against Judge Postma’s retention.

In a statement released today the Judicial Council explained its review and the results of a hearing with Judge Postma.  They found he – quote

“has experienced persistent difficulty in coping with the Anchorage District Court  caseload  and  stressful  situations.  Judge Postma  has  lacked  patience, dignity, and courtesy  in his communications which has contributed to constant friction between Judge Postma and other judges, court administrators, and court staff. Judge Postma has a tendency to lose his temper.”

The Judicial Council rarely recommends judicial non-retention – prior to one recommendation in 2006 and another in 2008, they had approved all judges for the previous eighteen years.    Cohn says that’s mostly because of the way judges are screened by the council, appointed by the governor – and then retained by voters. He says it is not a political process, adding that the council is forbidden from even investigating political relationships.

We wind up with judges who are chosen based on what we feel are the appropriate criteria – their integrity, their legal ability, their fairness, their temperament, their experience, their community service – stuff like that.  And so we think that’s a much better way of choosing judges than systems that rely on elections where political considerations are much more prominent.

The question of Judicial Retention will go before voters in this November’s General Election.


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