Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ex-Judge Nocella Disbarred by State Supreme Court

Former Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Nocella has been disbarred by the state Supreme Court more than two years after his removal from office.

The justices adopted the report and recommendation of the Disciplinary Board, which claimed Nocella failed to disclose in questionnaires from the Philadelphia Bar Association Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention that he had been a defendant or respondent in 24 cases.

Nocella was reviewed by the bar commission in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2011. In 2011, Nocella was nominated by the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee to fill a judicial vacancy that had arisen between the spring primary and the general election in the fall.

The board said Nocella, when seeking an updated evaluation by the bar commission in 2011, did not disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy; that he had been found in contempt in a Board of Ethics case; that the Internal Revenue Service had filed liens against him for $358,961 and $110,748; that a judgment was entered against Nocella for $923,152 in favor of Czarnecki Profit Sharing; and that a judgment of $306,174 was entered against Nocella in favor of Casimir Czarnecki.

Additionally, the board said Nocella neglected a client's divorce matter when he was elected to the bench in 2011. Nocella had filed a divorce complaint on behalf of Marta Maciuk, but did not inform her that he had become a judge and could no longer work on her case.

"Respondent's neglect of his client Marta Maciuk's divorce matter must not be overlooked. Respondent basically ignored Ms. Maciuk once he was elected as judge in November of 2011," the Disciplinary Board's report said.

Nocella's attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, did not return a call seeking comment.

The board's report said Nocella expressed remorse for his actions, but tried to minimize the misconduct by focusing on the repercussions in his own life.

"In discussing how he had changed, respondent testified that he was 'paying for [his] mistakes' and that he had 'come a long way from being a common pleas court judge to being out of work. So, you're going from someone who was making $200,000 a year to someone who was making $2,000 a month. That's the—honestly, it's that kind of change. Your positions change. Whatever status you had is lost. A lot of my friends have left me,'" the report said.

The report said Nocella was cooperative throughout the proceedings and recognized his wrongdoings.

However, the board noted, "The matters herein are serious and aggravated by the fact that respondent was a judge and held to a heightened standard. Respondent's transgressions offend both the public and the bar and bring disrepute to the profession. Under the circumstances, we unanimously recommend that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law."

In 2013, the Court of Judicial Discipline found Nocella violated the state constitution in the handling of a case in which he was found in contempt of court while working as a lawyer for a political action committee, in addition to failing to disclose the cases in which he was a litigant. The Supreme Court ousted Nocella from the bench based on those findings.

"We believe it to be beyond dispute that a judge—or one who would be a judge—who is willing to lie—and in official documents ... is not one who can be expected to encourage, indeed to insist that truth be spoken in his courtroom," Judge Robert J. Colville said in the opinion for the court in June 2013. "This respondent's relationship with truth and his regard for its importance in his everyday life is gruelingly illustrated" in the instance regarding the political action committee.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-Judge Nocella Disbarred by State Supreme Court

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