Sarah Palin's Typo Gave this Judge Huge Headaches
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A former Alaska judge claims he was the victim of "racist and sexist hazing" by his peers after former Governor Sarah Palin thanked him for his "pubic service" in his appointment letter.
Richard Postma Jr. claims the typo in Palin's letter caused him so much grief that he was voted out, had to return to private practice, and is struggling to hold onto his law license Bar.
Richard W. Postma Jr. sued Alaska Bars Counsel Stephen Van Goor and Assistant Bar Counsel Mark Woelber, in Federal Court.
"Plaintiff was a former state district judge in Anchorage who was appointed in 2007 by former Governor Sarah Palin," the 13-page lawsuit states.
"As a judge, he experienced racist and sexist hazing by certain judicial officers and court employees.
"The hazing started because of a typographical error in the judicial appointment letter where the Governor thanked the plaintiff for his years of 'pubic service,' instead of 'public service.'"
Postma claims in the complaint that his hazers went so far as to suggest he was appointed as a judge "by performing oral sex on former Governor Palin," and that it escalated "to suggest Postma was the biological father of Governor Palin's son, Trig Palin."
When he complained he was retaliated against, Postma says.
Postma claims that none of the jokes were true, but he suffered the harassment from his appointment in 2007 until 2010, when the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct "initiated an administrative action to remove Postma from the bench because of stress and medical problems caused by the hazing."
The Commission issued a detailed, "2010 Judicial Appointment Retention Performance Evaluation ," in which Postma received fair to high marks on specific questions, but a rather scathing review from the council itself, which recommended by 5-1 vote that that Postma not be reappointed.
According to Postma's complaint, it was this evaluation that motivated Alaska voters to vote him out in 2010.
The Judicial Council Recommended, inter alia, that "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. Judge Postma's characterization of past events has often been inconsistent with other documented information. Judge Postma has prioritized his personal needs over his judicial responsibilities."
The Recommendation adds: "An independent mental health expert retained by the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Judge Postma suffers from a combination of mental health difficulties that is or may become permanent and which render him unable to fulfill the duties of his office."
On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (highest), "The attorney rating for Judge Postma on overall performance was 3.7. Peace and probation officers gave Judge Postma a rating of 4.1. Jurors rated him 4.9 overall, and court employees gave him 3.1. ... Alaska Judicial Observers rated him 2.86," Recommendation states. Nonetheless, the Council said: "Judges must be fair and judicial in the courtroom and in their conduct off the bench. The Alaska Judicial Council concludes that, while performing acceptably on the bench, Judge Postma demonstrated an inability to function appropriately with other judges and court staff and that he did so in a manner that seriously interfered with the performance of his judicial duties, disrupted the functioning of the Anchorage District Court, and makes him unfit to retain his office. The Judicial Council finds Judge Postma to be Unqualified and recommends with a 5-1 vote that the public vote 'NO' on his retention as a district court judge."
Now, Postma claims in his lawsuit, he has trouble getting fair hearings for his clients, and has had three of five sitting judges "disqualified for cause" from his cases, because they allegedly participated in the alleged hazing and retaliation. (14)
And he claims the Alaska Bar Association tried to revoke his law license in January.
Defendant Van Goor told Courthouse News he could not comment on the lawsuit, which came to his notice on Wednesday.
According to the evaluation, Postma handled civil and criminal cases in the Third District and had more than 20 years of legal experience.