Anchorage District Court Judge Richard Postma says ethics accusations against him stem from an internal personnel dispute within the judicial bureaucracy started by his own allegations that he is discriminated against because he's Hispanic, according to his lawyer, Thomas Van Flein.
"Judge Postma intends to clear his name and reputation," Van Flein said.
Postma has been put on paid administrative leave until the complaint filed this week is resolved.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct has accused the 43-year-old judge of charges including being mentally unstable, exhibiting "a level of anger and lack of judgment," and failing to cooperate with other judges and his administrative staff.
The complaint does not further detail the mental disability that it says makes him unfit for the job. Nor does it charge him with acting inappropriately in court or in his decision-making on the bench.
"We don't think there's any reason to question his prior decisions," said Wendy Lyford, area court administrator for the Third Judicial District.
Postma faces permanent removal from the bench if the ethics violation accusations hold. Van Flein declined to comment further about his client's discrimination allegations.
Formal charges of this kind are rare in the Alaska Court System. In 2006, charges were filed against Kenai District Court Judge David Landry. He was accused of making inappropriate sexual comments and allowing suspects to escape prosecution by delaying their trials. Voters ousted him before the issue was resolved, but the Alaska Supreme Court later barred him from holding any judgeship in the state.
Postma was appointed to the bench in 2007 and is up for retention by voters this year. He was an assistant attorney general in Anchorage before his appointment. He served in the Army before going to college, then got his law degree from the University of Denver Law School in 1994, according to his application for judicial appointment.
The complaint against him says an independent mental health expert determined he has a disability that "seriously interferes with the performance of duties and is or may become permanent."
But Postma's defenders are rallying around him. "He is the very same person, possessing the same wry wit and the same sharp intellect, I have always known," Anchorage attorney Brewster Jamieson wrote on Thursday to the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Jamieson says he worked with Postma in private practice and has continued a professional relationship with him over the years.
After the Judicial Commission holds a courtlike proceeding where Postma is allowed to defend himself, the Alaska Supreme Court will make the ultimate decision on what happens to him.
A District Court judge usually handles misdemeanor crimes, arrest and search warrants, and smaller civil cases. There are 10 District Court judges in Anchorage.