Washington DC (January 20, 2015) – Today, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar on whether Florida’s ban on judicial candidates personally asking for money violates their First Amendment rights. Pennsylvania has a similar ban.
Former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry received a 20-month prison sentence on Wednesday for perjury. U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel additionally sentenced Lowry to a year of supervised release and 100 hours of community service.
With an unprecedented number of vacancies on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in 2015, more than sixteen candidates have expressed interest in running for one of three open seats. Commentators speculate that the amount of openings combined with Pennsylvania’s laid-back campaign finance laws could lead to an unprecedented amount of money flooding in from outside special interest groups.
Pennsylvania now has over 100 “problem-solving” or “treatment” courts. These courts divert non-violent offenders from jail and place them in various treatment programs. PA’s problem-solving courts include DUI courts, drug courts, veterans courts, and mental health courts. The first treatment court in PA was launched in 1997 in Philadelphia.
There are three open seats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in 2015, and over a dozen judges and lawyers have already expressed interest. The openings are a result of Justice Castille’s retirement and the resignation of former Justices McCaffery and Orie Melvin in the wake of scandals.
The Inquirer’s recent editorial, Courting Contempt, discusses the importance of holding judges to high standards, and some of the failings of Pennsylvania’s judicial discipline system in the wake of recent scandals. According to the article, “while the state's judicial conduct rules have been laudably strengthened, their enforcement remains inconsistent at best and nonexistent at worst.”
A Letter to the Editor by Lynn Marks of PMC was printed in this Sunday's Inquirer. The content of the letter can be found below:
Justice Thomas G. Saylor will be sworn in as Pennsylvania’s newest chief justice after serving seventeen years on the Supreme Court. Justice Saylor will be taking over the role as a result of his senior status on the court and in the wake of Justice Castille’s retirement.
The Judicial Conduct Board (JCB) filed formal misconduct charges on Monday against Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael J. Sullivan. The Complaint alleges that Judge Sullivan violated the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges with regard to his involvement in the ticket-fixing scandal that occurred in Philadelphia Traffic Court.
A review of approximately 4,000 emails sent or received from 2008 to 2012 between Pennsylvania Supreme Court members and the Attorney General’s Office revealed that there were no improper emails aside from those sent by former Justice Seamus McCaffery. The report was issued by Robert L. Byer, a partner at Duane Morris.