Justice McCaffery suspended from Supreme Court with pay

By Jim Boyle | Oct 21, 2014

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order late Monday suspending Justice Seamus

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order late Monday suspending Justice Seamus

McCaffery on an interim basis with pay. The suspensions comes from recent accusations that McCaffery had transmitted pornographic emails to government workers in the Attorney General's office, along with other allegations of wrongdoing, according to the order posted Monday afternoon.

The order says that McCaffery may have improperly contacted a Philadelphia traffic-court official in connection with a traffic citation issued to his wife; authorized his wife to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees from plaintiffs’ firms while she served as his administrative assistant; and attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment on the Philadelphia common pleas bench outside the scope of his official duties.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille concurred with the order in a harshly written opinion that explained why the court chose to act instead of taking the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board, saying such a review would take too long and threaten the court's credibility in the meantime.

"The most recent misconduct of Justice McCaffery...has caused the Supreme Court to be
held up to public ridicule," Castille wrote. "This conduct deserves the immediate action as implemented by this court today. It would be impossible for this court to function effectively while Justice McCaffery sits on this court."

Castille, a Republican, admits in his opinion that he has been actively attempting to remove McCaffery from the bench, saying his colleague's behavior has failed to live up to the ethical standards of the court and going so far as to imply that McCaffery is a sociopath for not accepting blame for his role in the controversies.

"The most telling pathology is that when that person is caught, or called out for his transgressions, that person does not accept blame but instead blames others for his or her own misconduct," said Castille. "Those pathological symptoms describe a sociopath."

McCaffery's role in the email scandals was uncovered during Attorney General Kathleen Kane's investigation into the office's handling of the sexual abuse allegations made against Jerry Sandusky before she took over.

She revealed to the media that dozens of government workers had traded pornographic materials via email, naming eight people who either worked in Governor Tom Corbett's office or criticized her investigation. Five of those people have resigned their positions without admitting any wrongdoing.

On Oct. 10, Castille released the findings from an investigation into emails from the state judiciary, saying that of 2,800 emails sent by Justice Seamus McCaffery, 234 of those contained sexually explicit material. Castille said that no other Supreme Court justices were involved with transmitting the pornographic materials.

McCaffery apologized for the emails on Oct. 16, but a day later Justice J. Michael Eakin released a statement saying he had received explicit emails from McCaffery, who threatened to go public if Eakin did not convince Castille to retract his statements accusing McCaffery of misconduct.

"Today’s action against Justice McCaffery should surprise no one, given Chief Justice Castille’s relentless crusade to destroy his career and reputation," reads a statement released by McCaffery spokesman Frank Keel. "We will continue in our efforts to expose the malicious intent behind this effort to take down Justice McCaffery. We are confident that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the bench soon.”

Justice Debra McCloskey Todd wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that the case should be under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Conduct Board, saying it is the type of situation for which the board was created.

"Every day, this Court is charged with according due process to litigants, and we
faithfully carry out that constitutional obligation," Todd writes. "Even a justice is entitled to due process."

Attorney Robert L. Byer of Duane Morris has been named special counsel to the court in the matter, according to the order.

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