Is Pozonsky Eligible for AK Bar?
This past weekend, Shannyn Moore broke an important story in the Opnion Section of the Anchorage Daily News. She revealed that Governor Sean Parnell hired a new hearing officer for the Workers’ Compensation Board…Paul Pozonsky, a former judge from Pennsylvania.
…a “former judge” who was stripped of his ability to hear criminal cases in Pennsylvania this past June and immediately resigned.
Jeanne Devon followed-up with a fascinating back-story showing the family connections that give the Pozonsky’s influence over some of the most powerful individuals in Alaska, past and present.
Both articles raise many questions as to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Pozonsky’s appointment.
A large issue of interest for me is Mr. Pozonsky’s legal status. As of August, he applied for membership to the Alaska Bar Association, which commonly takes about six months. According to Alaska Statute, a candidate for hearing officer must have been “admitted to practice law for at least two years immediately before the appointment.” While it says nothing specific about those two prior years being in the State of Alaska, one can assume that holding the hearing officer position requires an eventual membership in the Bar Association of the state in which the hearings are being held.
So. what if it is determined that the candidate is not eligible for membership to the Alaska Bar?
Rule #2 of the Alaska Bar Rules lists the eligibility requirements for membership to the Alaska Bar Association. Titled “Eligibility for Examination,” it gives education, age and application requirements as well as a list of items that would be considered a “cause for further inquiry”…things you might expect like: criminal convictions (other than traffic violations), academic misconduct, false statements, dishonest acts, etc…
However, it was number 10 that caught my attention as being applicable to this particular case:
(10) disciplinary action by an attorney disciplinary agency, other professional disciplinary agency or any governmental or administrative agency of any jurisdiction.
According to the Pennsylvania papers, you might say he was subject to disciplinary action:
Pozonsky resigned June 29 after 14 years on the bench, and a month after county President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca removed him from hearing criminal cases after she learned of the evidence destruction [in 16 drug cases from 1998 to 2011]. He earned $169,541 annually.
“I have never seen that in my 36 years in the legal profession,” said O’Dell Seneca, who declined to say why she removed Pozonsky from criminal court, where he presided over a drug-treatment court among other cases. “The procedure is that the District Attorney’s Office or Attorney General’s Office files a petition with the court asking to destroy the evidence.”
According to criminal complaints, the evidence in some of the cases included crack and powder cocaine, heroin, marijuana and at least $2,000 in cash.
That sounds like serious disciplinary action to me.
The Alaska Bar Rules go on to say that consideration should be given to certain issues when “assigning weight and significance to prior conduct or condition.” These issues include:
– the recency of the conduct or condition;
– the seriousness of the conduct or condition;
– the circumstances surrounding the conduct or condition
Since the “conduct” happened in June 2012, was serious enough to have Pozonsky removed from criminal cases, and probably caused his resignation, I’d say this should be enough to give the Alaska Bar Association pause.
The issue that troubles me the most is whether there is proof that the “destruction of evidence” actually occurred or did that evidence just disappear? Since the “evidence” was illegal and expensive drugs as well as cash, that’s an important piece of information to have before giving someone another position in the field of law. I contacted the main Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, The Criminal Prosecution Division, The Judicial Conduct Board, The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel as well as other legal professionals. No one either had information for me or could legally give me any information.
However, I did discover that the articles written about Pozonsky’s new Alaska adventures are being read down there with great interest.
I hope the Alaska Bar Association has better luck.
(If you want to share your concerns about Mr. Paul Pozonsky’s possible admission, contact the Alaska Bar Association )