The news struck yesterday like thunder – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery was suddenly quitting the bench as he faced controversies involving porno emails and much more.
And as the dust settles, we get the real story: McCaffery negotiated a deal with the state Judicial Conduct Board in which he quits and agrees not to seek judicial office again, and in return he keeps his full pension and the board shuts down its investigation into all kinds of troubling things – like whether he fixed a ticket for his wife, violated ethics rules involving referral fees to his wife, or improperly sought to influence an active case.
In explaining its action, the Judicial Conduct Board said it had concluded that “it is in the best interest of the judiciary and the judicial system of the commonwealth to dismiss its investigations.”
Notice the board didn’t say it’s in the best interest of the citizens of the commonwealth, who might like to know exactly what those we come to for justice are up to, and who might not feel like paying a fat pension (at least $155,000 a year according to the Inquirer) to someone accused of serious ethical breaches.
This is an insiders deal, struck among members of the club of high-powered lawyers and jurists who run the state’s legal system.
You can understand why they’d want this unpleasantness ended, and wish all this unwelcome scrutiny of the state’s highest court would just go away. It’s over, folks, move along. Nothing to see here.
Well, I want a serious fact-finding body to get to the bottom of this and either clear Justice McCaffery if he’s clean, or hold him fully accountable if he isn’t.
Guess that won’t be the Judicial Conduct Board.