Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial misconduct' Category

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Drops Appeal


Former Justice Joan Orie Melvin

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has dropped her appeal and has begun serving her sentence, according to an article by the Associated Press. Her sentence on public corruption charges includes sending apology letters to other state judges and three years of house arrest. (For more background see Gavel Grab.)

Melvin has submitted drafted apology letters, but has been met with contention by District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. “[A]ttempting to deflect blame for her actions to members of her staff can hardly be considered an apology,” Zappala said. His concerns deal with a specific paragraph in Melvin’s draft that reads, “In reflection, I wish I had been more diligent in my supervision of my staff and that I had given them more careful instructions with respect to the prohibition on political activity.” Zappala has forwarded his comments to the sentencing judge, but no response has been received.

Melvin was convicted of using her judicial staffers, who are paid with taxpayer money, for her own state Supreme Court campaigns. This scandal involving the court has been quickly followed by another which resulted in the resignation of Justice Seamus McCaffery, leading some to question the process of electing judges.

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Tennessee Trial Judge is Reprimanded

Tennessee’s Board of Judicial Conduct has reprimanded a trial court judge whose handling of an assault case, in which a friend who was also a campaign donor represented the defendant, sparked controversy.

The board said Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland had violated three judicial canons and “detrimentally affected the integrity of the Judiciary,” according to The Tennessean.

Judge Moreland decided in the case at issue to provide early release for a defendant whose attorney, Bryan Lewis, was good friends with the judge and had donated to his campaign. The defendant allegedly attacked his victim a second time soon after release (see Gavel Grab).

The judge has apologized. In the wake of the controversy, reforms were adopted.

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Pennsylvania Justice McCaffery is Suspended From Bench

Justice McCaffery

Justice McCaffery

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended with pay one of its justices, Seamus McCaffery. The vote followed his apology for sending sexually explicit e-mails, which he had described as private and personal.

Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board, which has begun an investigation, was ordered by the court to decide in 30 days if there is probable cause for bringing formal misconduct charges, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article. Read more

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Conflict at Divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Allegations of wrongdoing are threatening to cast a cloud over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. One justice, Seamus McCaffery, “acknowledged sending sexually explicit messages from a personal account,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and a divided court is weighing action.

There’s more to the messy and still-unfolding story. Justice McCaffery has labeled a push for his suspension by Chief Justice Ronald Castille as part of a “vindictive pattern attacks” on McCaffery, according to the Inquirer.

And Justice J. Michael Eakin, the Inquirer said, “was shown to have been sent pornographic and racially tinged e-mails on an anonymous private account”; the article said Justice Eakin “reported himself to the Judicial Conduct Board.” He “accused McCaffery of threatening to release the sexually explicit emails in Read more

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Ex-Justice Receives Another Stay of Her Sentence

courtheaderFormer Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has received another stay of her sentence, her third in 18 months, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Convicted of public corruption in her own state Supreme Court campaign, Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years of house arrest, a $55,000 fine, soup kitchen volunteer hours, and ordered to write letters of apology to every judge in the commonwealth. Read more

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Judge Removed From Bench After Ordering Electro-Shock

The Maryland Court of Appeals has removed Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley from the bench. Maryland State Public Defender Paul DeWolfe earlier requested Judge Nalley’s removal, after the judge “ordered a defendant in his courtroom to be electro-shocked to shut him up,” according to Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for judges, but the Court of Appeals can give them permission to keep hearing cases.” Judge Nalley had officially retired earlier. Read more

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Domestic-Assault Case Involving Judge Gets More Scrutiny

With football star Ray Rice making new headlines after video of his beating his fiancee was made public, some analysts are finding parallels with the case of a federal district judge recently charged with assaulting his wife.

Judge Fuller

Judge Fuller

Both Rice and Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama may see their records expunged after they have participated in pre-trial diversion programs that include counseling (see Gavel Grab for background about Judge Fuller). The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, and after the video became public, his contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload temporarily and hopes to return to “full, active status.”

For CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote that both Rice and Judge Fuller received “sweet deals” in court, and “it looks like the prosecutors failed in Atlantic City and Atlanta.” His essay was headlined, “Wife-beating is not a private matter.” Read more

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Arkansas Judge Receives Lifetime Ban for Ethics Violations

Judge Michael Maggio banned

Judge Michael Maggio banned

If the Arkansas Supreme Court approves sanctions against Circuit Judge Michael Maggio, he will be suspended for the rest of his term and barred from ever holding judicial office again, reports ArkansasOnline.

According to the Associated Press, the ban stems from disclosing confidential details about an adoption involving actress Charlize Theron and making off-color remarks in an online forum.

Read more

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Report: Judge Sent Hundreds of Inappropriate Messages

Now-retired U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who forwarded a racist and sexist email about President Obama from his courthouse computer, did a lot more emailing that investigators have found objectionable.

After an investigation that looked at four years of personal communications sent from his official account, according to the Associated Press, hundreds of instances of inappropriate messages were found:

“Former U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sent emails to personal and professional contacts that showed disdain for blacks, Indians, Hispanics, women, certain religious faiths, liberal political leaders, and some emails contained inappropriate jokes about sexual orientation, the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found.” Read more

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Trial Judge Suspends Ex-Justice's Sentence, for Now

A trial court judge ordered on Friday that the entire criminal sentencing of ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin (photo) of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court be stayed, at least until a higher court reaches a decision on her appeal.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court agreed with a request by Orie Melvin’s lawyers and stayed a part of her sentencing that directed her to write apologies to former colleagues on photographs of her wearing handcuffs (see Gavel Grab).

On Friday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ordered the temporary lifting of her house arrest and probation, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“She’s not serving my sentence! And the problem I have with that is she’s banking credit for time served and I will not allow it!” Judge Nauhaus declared.

Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years in house arrest and a $55,000 fine. She was convicted by a jury of corruption in campaigns for the state’s highest court.

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