Jon Campisi Oct. 17, 2012, 8:23am

A former state appellate judge has been tapped to serve as chief counsel to

the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board.

On Monday, the board announced that it has appointed former Superior Court Judge Robert A. Graci as chief counsel upon the retirement of Joseph A. Massa Jr., who served as chief counsel for the past decade.

In an Oct. 15 JCB news release, board chairman Jim McErlane, of the Chester County law firm Lamb McErlane PC, said Massa had informed the board of his intent to retire by the end of 2012, triggering a search for a replacement.

Massa, who will continue to serve as senior counsel to the board until the end of this year, “ably served the Board for more than 10 years and did so with dignity and integrity, doing so during often trying times while having to deal with a severe budget crunch,” McErlane said in a statement. “We are indebted to Joe for his substantial contributions to the Board and wish him the very best in his retirement.”

Graci served on the Superior Court, which is the state’s appellate court directly beneath the Supreme Court, from 2002 to 2004.

Following his time on the bench, he was a member in the Harrisburg offices of Pittsburgh-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, where he headed up the firm’s Appellate Practice Group, according to the JCB.

Graci is currently active in the Pennsylvania Bar Association and serves on the Board of Governors of the Bar Association of the Third Federal Circuit.

He has also served on a number of judicial committees and often lectures for various legal and law-related groups, the JCB stated in its announcement.

In his statement, McErlane, the JCB’s chairman, said Graci’s selection as chief counsel was an easy decision.

“The process of replacing the chief legal officer of any organization can be an arduous process,” McErlane said. “When Judge Graci expressed his willingness to leave his successful private practice to return to public service as the Board’s Chief Counsel, he made the process easier.”

McErlane continued: “His [Graci’s] service as a member of the Superior Court, his experience as a prosecutor at the state and local levels for more than 20 years, his record of leadership and success in both public and private sectors, and his keen interest in preserving the integrity, independence and dignity of the judiciary, make him a natural selection.”

Graci’s appointment was effective Oct. 1.

The Judicial Conduct Board is tasked with investigating allegations of ethical misconduct against Pennsylvania judges.

The board recently made headlines after filing a complaint against former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie F. Singletary, who was accused of showing photos of his genitalia to a female court staffer.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline issued a reprimand against Singletary, ruling that the former jurist, through his actions, brought disrepute to Traffic Court.

Singletary plans to appeal the CJD’s ruling, which could have repercussions such as ensuring that Singletary never again serves in a judiciary role.

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