Monday, October 20, 2014

PA. Supreme Court Suspends Justice McCaffrey

In yet another sorry tale amidst the often etrhics-challenged antics of the Pennsylvania courts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today suspended one of its own -- Justice Seamus McCaffery --  following revelations that he sent ore received pornographic e-mails to state employees from a private account. Reportedly, more than 200 such e-mails were involved between 2008 and 2012.

Today's action by the Supreme Court is a victory for Chief Justice Ronald Castille and a defeat for McCaffrey, two arch-rivals who have been feuding for years. It's also another sorry chapter in the history of the Pennsylvania judiciary where all of the state's judges are elected rather than appointed.

The court released an order today saying it suspending McCaffery on "an interim basis," with pay. It also said that, within 30 days, the state's Judicial Conduct Board must determine whether there is probable cause to file formal charges against McCafrey.

The Conduct Board handles judicial ethics complaints, and has already launched an investigation into McCaffery's e-mails.

Today's order came on the heels of  a call by Chief Justice Castille to his colleagues to take action against McCaffery and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.

Independent observers, commentators and the Philadelphia Bar Association had looked upon McCaffrey's actions with deep concern, questioned his ethical judgement, citeing portions of the judicial rules regarding ethics and calling for an independent investigation that would bring about a swift conclusion to the matter.

Today, Chief Justice Castille wrote of McCaffery: "In my two decades of experience on this court, no other justice . . . has done as much to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute. No other justice has failed to live up to the high ethical demands required of this court or has been the constant focus of ethical lapses to the degree of Justice McCaffery."

There isn't a lot of dispute here about the e-mails.  McCaffery himself admitted that he used a personal account to send e-mails containing sexually explicit content. But he has continued to blame Castille for his troubles.

Castille contends that any judge who exchanged grossly pornographic material by e-mail, even from a personal account, might have violated the state's code of judicial ethics and may be subject to discipline.

No comments: