Chief justice says ethics board sent him ‘letter of inquiry’

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court received an “informal letter of inquiry” on Wednesday from the board that investigates allegations of wrongdoing by judges, his office confirmed.

The probe apparently concerns allegations that Chief Justice Thomas Saylor may have improperly interfered in disciplinary matters involving former Justice Cynthia Baldwin.

Baldwin was recently reprimanded for her actions as Penn State’s top lawyer in representing university administrators nearly a decade ago before a grand jury that was investigating Jerry Sandusky.

“Today, the chief justice received an informal letter of inquiry to which he will respond in due course,” said Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts spokesperson Stacey Witalec. No other details were disclosed.

Baldwin, who is Black, made public in late July a sworn affidavit that accused Saylor, who is white, of complaining to another judge in 2012 about Baldwin’s supposed “minority agenda.”

The affidavit by former Northumberland County Judge Barry Feudale, who had managed the Sandusky grand jury, claims Saylor told him at a judicial conference in Hershey that a disciplinary complaint was in the works against Baldwin in connection with the Sandusky investigation.

Saylor told Feudale that Baldwin “caused us a lot of trouble when she was on the Supreme Court with her minority agenda,” Feudale claims in the affidavit.

Saylor has denied that allegation, describing it as false and offensive.

“If the affidavit is as sworn, it shows bias and vindictiveness” in the disciplinary process against her, Baldwin said last month.

Baldwin said she did not know of Feudale’s allegations against Saylor until her lawyers in the disciplinary matter received the affidavit from Feudale.

Baldwin, 75, a Democrat, served briefly as a justice in 2006-07 as an appointee of then-Gov. Ed Rendell.

Saylor, 73, a Republican, has been a justice since 1997 and is nearing mandatory retirement age. He recused himself when the Supreme Court voted 4-0 earlier this year to reprimand her because she testified about university officials to an investigating grand jury after she had accompanied them when they testified before the panel.

The state Supreme Court removed Feudale from his role overseeing statewide grand jury investigations in 2013 at the request of the state’s then-attorney general, Kathleen Kane. The high court also declined to reappoint Feudale as a senior county court judge.

Baldwin told The Legal Intelligencer she did not file a judicial ethics complaint against Saylor.

“I went through the whole thing, and when it was over, I still had the affidavit. I said to myself, if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Baldwin told The Legal Intelligencer. “If people don’t know these allegations exist, and you don’t make it public, then you’re part of the problem.”

She told the paper she did not think she and Saylor had any problems while they served together on the Supreme Court — but was shocked to read Feudale’s affidavit.

“I didn’t know of any tensions with the chief justice,” she said. “To me, we were all amicable colleagues. I was shocked. But then after I got over the shock, I was saddened and upset.”

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