Pa. Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery retires under email cloud

Embattled Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery has called it quits. McCaffery has resigned his post after being suspeneded for allegedly exhanging sexually explicit e-mails with people in the office of the Attorney General.

McCafferty sent a letter to Governor Tom Corbett retiring from the post, and shortly afterward the Supreme Court confirmed the resignation in an order lifting a suspension from the bench.

Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer watches the court closely, including the ongoing spat between McCaffery and Chief Justice Ron Castille. On WHYY’s Radio Times Passarella said the public nature of the fight is surprising.

“I don’t think the people expect the justices of the Supreme Court of the state to come out in this way,” Passarella said. “They expect them to be deciding important cases sitting in a room together and agree, and at least agree to disagree, and issue dissents and opinions in matters. And as Castille said in his opinion, come November when they have their oral arguments, they viewed it as impossible doing that with the court as currently made up.”

In response to an e-mail asking him about the situation, McCaffery’s attorney Dion Rassias replied with one line: “Whatdya say we get back to what makes our courts great.”

Calls to McCaffery’s office have gone straight to voicemail.

Bruce Ledewitz, professor at Duquesne University School of Law, says the retirement sets a troubling precedent.

“Nothing was ever proved,” he said. “I suppose that we should assume that he must be guilty of something terrible since he’s taking retirement instead of fighting it, but we’ll never know that. In all likelihood we will not know that for sure.”

McCaffery, who was a Philadelphia Police officer before becoming a lawyer was best known for presiding over “Eagles Court” inside the old Veterans’ Stadium during NFL games. When he previously apologized for his involvment in the explicit emails, however, he complained that this was an example of Chief Justice Castille being “out to get him.”

Additional reporting by Mary Wilson.

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