Judge should have disclosed ties to Sandusky, critics say

Michael P. Tremoglie Nov. 16, 2011, 8:31am

Questions surrounding the conduct of the judge who arraigned former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky - now an accused pedophile -are being raised over what is being characterized as a surprisingly low bail.

Magisterial District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, the judge who arraigned Sandusky, is a volunteer and donor to the nonprofit organization Sandusky operates called “The Second Mile.”

Dutchcot also did not require tight restrictions during Sandusky's release.

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) Executive Director Lynn A. Marks said Dutchot should have disclosed her ties to Sandusky.

“Judge Dutchcot should have put this information on the record and given the parties an opportunity to request her recusal from the case," Marks said.  "In fact, we believe that recusal would have been the wise decision, but Pennsylvania gives a lot of discretion to judges regarding recusal decisions.”

Recusals have been a hot button issue as of late. A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case involved a West Virginia justice’s refusal to recuse from a case involving someone who had made major campaign expenditures in support of his election.

“This case highlights the need for Pennsylvania to revisit the issue of recusal,” said Shira Goodman, PMC’s deputy director.

“Judges need more guidance in making recusal decisions," Goodman added. "Pennsylvania can and should provide more tools to judges through mandatory ethics education. Regular educational programs and discussion of ethical challenges will better prepare judges to make the difficult ethical calls that are part of their work."

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