Archive for the ‘Pennsyvania supreme court’ category

Byzantine Pennsylvania

December 2, 2015

Shortly after , Kathleen Kane, the first woman (and Democrat) Attorney General was elected and took office, the wheels began to come off the wagon. What has transpired will some day make a good read or maybe even present Hollywood with a story too good to tell.

Ms. Kane was a political animal and had little or no trail experience when she elected to run for office. Following a bruising primary, she went on and won the Attorney General position in the general election. The people had spoken, so is that not the end of it?

Apparently Ms Kane saw political enemies behind every tree and when she began to act upon her campaign promise to open review of the State’s investigation into the Penn State Jerry Sandusky trial, the “villains” began to multiply.

Kane countered this group of “enemies” by passing selective information on.  The leaks of confidential information to State newspapers lead to a grand jury being empaneled in which Ms Kane was summoned to testify. As a consequence Ms Kane was held in contempt for lying to the grand jury and is now awaiting trial.

A State level judicial board met and decide to revoke Kane’s law license making her an Attorney General without an approved license to practice law. Hmmm.

Kane has refused to resign and claimed she could carry out the Attorney General duties without holding a license.

If this is not complicated enough, add to this soap opera Kane’s claim that she was the target of an old boys network and that she could prove it.  Hmmm.

Kane then proceeded to gain permission to release emails held on State servers from and to members of the State Supreme Court. The release lead to the term “porn-gate” when the released emails showed many of the Supreme Court Justices happily exchanging off color emails which contained references to nudes, sex, racial, and homophobic themes.

One Justice has resigned and the Chief Justice now is under pressure to resign.

One can question what’s wrong with these emails since “everybody does it”. What puts porn-gate over the top is that the Justices exchanged and received these emails from practicing attorney who came before them in court… sleeping with the enemy?

As Kane’s trial is drawing closer, the State Senate and House are trying to impeach Kane. Allegedly impeachment is sought because Kane no longer has her license. Hmmm.

Kane, however, has other plans. She has appointed a Special Prosecutor who will be asked to review all emails held on State servers and look for a wider pattern of email messages unsuited for State business.

It does not take much of a stretch to guess that many State legislators, ready to impeach Kane (as well as those not ready), are breathing heavily now worried about what juicy emails lie in their accounts.

Most of the off color and insensitive emails when put in sunlight reflect on the frailties of our elected public servants. What is far more troubling is the open buddy-buddy relationships between various branches of State Government and State Agencies. Where are the checks and balances. Where is the impartiality we expect from our public officials?  And, what other “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” type emails will emerge?

Stay tuned, the best may yet  come.

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Judicial Respect

October 23, 2014

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.