Judicial Respect

There is an important but almost farcical drama playing out in Pennsylvania. This “too good to be true” situation involves a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice being suspended for conduct detrimental to the good image of the court. Hmmm.

Justice Seamus McCaffery was suspended from the high court because he had been implicated in an exchange of “X” rated emails with other top Pennsylvania officials. At first attention was focused upon the recipients of McCaffery’s emails and whether the exchange  represented fraternization with prosecutors. Subsequently the judicial review board has settled upon simply “conduct which would lower the publics respect for the judiciary”. Hmmm.

One might reasonably think that McCaffery would have reached that same conclusion and simply apologized and retired voluntarily. That, however, was not going to happen.

McCaffery had already been publicly reported to have hired his wife as an aide. No legal problem in Pennsylvania but nepotism is normally a warning sign about governance. But that’s not the issue.

McCaffery’s wife, a well known lawyer on her own, took the opportunity to refer potential clients to other law firms while serving as McCafferty’s aid. Hmmm.

And, yes his wife received substantial (but customary) fees for each referral. Hmmm.

The law firms receiving the referrals often represented matters which made it to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and could be expected from time to time to actually come before Judge McCaffery himself.  Hmmm.

This conflict of interest was quickly overlooked because it was legal to refer and hiring family members was an old practice. Hmmm.
For the most part, “X” rated emails are protected speech and if sent on private computers would also be viewed as perfectly legal (although probably embarrassing just as pictures of bedroom activities might be seen if made public).

IMO, the judicial review board acted properly in suspending McCaffery but showed a huge blind spot for justification.

I cannot image anyone who would stand for election to the Supreme Court (or any elected government position) just to get a chance to exchange “X” rated emails. I certainly can understand the desire to attain these offices in order to benefit in some personal way.

The real issue with McCaffery should not be the emails, he should have been suspended long ago due to nepotism and potential conflict of interest.

The world goes around sometimes in ways we cannot predict. McCaffery, who might be a great jurist, carried too much baggage and risked creating a negative image towards the entire judicial system  He had to go, even if for a marginal issue.

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Explore posts in the same categories: pennsylvania, Pennsyvania supreme court, Politics, seamus mccaffery

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