Former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta's discussion of a confidential 2006 ethics complaint against former President Judge Michael T. Conahan appeared as a "blatant maneuver to muddy the water and manipulate public opinion," an attorney for the state Judicial Conduct Board said Thursday.
The anonymous complaint accused Mr. Conahan of packing the court staff with relatives and political allies, hearing cases involving lawyers with whom he had personal or professional ties and manipulating the assignment of cases to other judges.
Frank Puskas, deputy chief counsel for the conduct board, chastised Ms. Lokuta and her attorney, Ron Santora, for referencing the complaint during a hearing in May and in a court filing last month.
Mr. Puskas included the criticism in a 23-page filing urging a state discipline court to deny Ms. Lokuta a new hearing on the misconduct charges that led to her removal from the bench last December.
Efforts to reach Mr. Santora were unsuccessful Thursday.
Under state law, recently submitted evidence of alleged wrongdoing by several panel witnesses, including Mr. Conahan and his co-defendant, former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., does not merit a new hearing if it is used only to impeach the credibility of a witness, Mr. Puskas said.
Mr. Conahan and Mr. Ciavarella were indicted Wednesday on 48 counts related to their alleged involvement in a kids-for-cash corruption scheme, including racketeering, bribery, extortion and money laundering.
Last month, Ms. Lokuta submitted statements from four witnesses, including three current or former courthouse employees, by Mr. Conahan and Mr. Ciavarella in an attempt to erode their credibility and that of two other witnesses who testified at her misconduct hearing, former prothonotary Jill A. Moran and former Court Administrator William T. Sharkey Sr.
The statements should have been submitted during Ms. Lokuta's misconduct hearing and the witnesses should have testified about their claims, Mr. Puskas said.
Mr. Puskas said Ms. Lokuta's claims Mr. Conahan retaliated against her for going to federal authorities were contradicted by the timing of the federal corruption investigation. The investigation commenced in the summer of 2006, Mr. Puskas said, more than two years after the Judicial Conduct Board receive a complaint against Ms. Lokuta from her former executive secretary.
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