Thursday, May 18, 2017

Justices Probe Use of Precedent in Judicial Discipline

Attorneys representing two Philadelphia judges removed from the bench last year may have wanted to argue about the unfairness of the disciplinary process or the sanctions their clients received, but the state Supreme Court was only interested in hearing about the role that prior precedent may play in the Court of Judicial Discipline's deliberative process.

On 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.

The 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.

When 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 Legal.

"Her son received something a similarly situated citizen would not have," Saylor said.

During 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.

However, Saylor again put an end to that argument, saying "of course she did," and that Haimowitz was making "a serious allegation."

Saylor 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.

When 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."

Justice 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)

Full Article & Source:
Justices Probe Use of Precedent in Judicial Discipline

1 comment:

Kevin said...