prior precedent may play in the Court of Judicial Discipline's deliberative process.
Tuesday the justices heard argument in the disciplinary cases against
former Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Angeles Roca and former
Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal, who were removed from the bench last year.
justices, who had specifically granted the appeals on the issue of what
role stare decisis should play for the CJD, asked about what the
process should be for determining sanctions, whether the disciplinary
body should have to outline its reasoning and what role the Supreme
Court can play in hearing appeals. Any arguments that Roca and Segal
were not afforded due process or that their sentences went beyond the
bounds of fairness were quickly rejected by the court.
attorney Samuel Stretton, who represented Roca and argued first before
the Supreme Court, said he did not think removal was warranted for Roca
since she had only sought a rule returnable in a case involving her son,
Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor put an end to that argument, saying
Roca's son received a ruling that nobody else would have. Stretton is a
regular contributor to Pennsylvania Law Weekly, an affiliate of The
"Her son received something a similarly situated citizen would not have," Saylor said.
attorney Stuart Haimowitz's time arguing, Haimowitz, who is
representing Segal, said his client had not been given adequate due
process since the sanction varied so vastly from the conduct at issue.
Saylor again put an end to that argument, saying "of course she did,"
and that Haimowitz was making "a serious allegation."
dismissed Haimowitz from the lectern after the exchange following only a
few minutes of argument, saying, in part, that Haimowitz's arguments
were repeating some of the issues Stretton had previously raised.
it came to the question regarding stare decisis, Stretton contended
that the court needed to consider precedent when making its decisions on
sanctions. According to Stretton, the court did not do any
proportionality analysis when considering Roca's sanctions, but simply
decided that corruption requires removal.
"I'm suggesting that the
court had no studied review of the case law of the past 24 to 25 years
of that court and the Supreme Court treating that kind of case different
from removal," Stretton said. "What happened here was a sea change."
Debra Todd said Stretton was asking for a "robotic" approach where the
court would simply have to follow a check list, but Stretton replied
that he did not believe the court needed to be so strictly bound by
stare decisis, but simply that it needed to review and distinguish the
case law when making a ruling.
Robert Graci, chief counsel for the
Judicial Conduct Board, argued in reply that the CJD did what it needed
to do in terms of reviewing the precedent, and that a finding by the
justices that the court was bound by stare decisis would not change the
decision to remove Roca and Segal.
Graci said he was not surprised by the decision to remove Segal and Roca given the Supreme Court's 2014 decision in In re Magisterial District Judge Bruno, which, he said, found that corruption had no place on the bench.
"I think that the times have changed," Graci said. (Click to Continue)
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Justices Probe Use of Precedent in Judicial Discipline