Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline has granted a petition by the state’s Judicial
Conduct Board to suspend without pay a magisterial district judge from Lancaster County who got caught up in her own personal ticket-fixing scandal.
The ruling by the CJD against Judge Kelly S. Ballentine is retroactive to Feb. 11, and orders the disgraced jurist to repay the commonwealth the salary and contributions she has received since that date.
Ballentine had been on paid suspension for more than a year after state authorities charged her with illegally scrapping three traffic citations that had been issued to her by Lancaster City police officers, the Pennsylvania Record previously reported.
In late February of this year, the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board filed formal charges against Ballentine, arguing that the minor court jurist brought the judicial office into disrepute when she allegedly used a court computer system to dismiss motor vehicle citations that had been issued to her in the winter of 2010.
The JCB had charged Ballentine with violating the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges and Article V of the state’s constitution.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office had initially charged Ballentine, who began her job as a magisterial district judge in Lancaster County’s Second Judicial District in early 2006, with multiple counts each of conflict of interest, tampering with public records or information, and obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function, the Record previously reported.
Some of those were felony charges.
On Feb. 1, records show, Ballentine pleaded guilty to three counts of an amended charge of tampering with public records or information, a second-degree misdemeanor, with the Attorney General’s Office agreeing to dismiss the remaining charges that had been lodged against her.
In the meantime, the JCB argued that Ballentine should not receive her salary while serving out her suspension due to the nature of the charges against her.
In mid-April, the CJD agreed with the JCB, determining that Ballentine violated the state constitution and judicial rules “by virtue of her improper conduct by personally dismissing three traffic citations that were issued to her in 2010,” read a JCB press release from April 19.
In its April 16 opinion, the CJD wrote that that “we cannot think of a purer example of conduct which prejudices the proper administration of justice; nor is there any doubt that this conduct, involving, as it does, the very heart of the judicial function, is so extreme as to be such that brings the judicial office itself into disrepute.”
While its opinion was filed last month, the CJD didn’t issue the suspension order until May 28, which came in the form of a two-page per curiam order.
In addition to repaying her salary, Ballentine has been ordered to repay the state its share of Ballentine’s retirement and Social Security contributions.
Those amounts shall be determined by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the CJD wrote, with the JCB being ordered to advise the CJD of that figure on or before June 14.
Ballentine is still allowed to receive her medical benefits during her payless suspension.