Was there more to the McCaffery email porn scandal?

     Seamus McCaffery (NewsWorks, file)

    Seamus McCaffery (NewsWorks, file)

    The surprise resignation of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice McCaffery leaves a host of questions in its wake. Among them is whether the court itself acted properly when it suspended him in the first place.

    And what, exactly, did Justice Seamus McCaffery do? 

    Allegedly, McCaffery did more than share pornographic emails. Another justice says McCaffery threatened to implicate him in the porn scandal if he didn’t support efforts to have the investigation dropped.

    Twenty years ago, Pennsylvania voters created the independent Judicial Review Board to investigate just such cases. But McCaffery’s fellow justices didn’t want to wait. Instead, the Supreme Court suspended McCaffery. After that, McCaffery agreed to resign, and the investigators agreed to drop their case.

    Bruce Ledowitz, a law professor at Duquesne University, says the public isn’t likely to ever learn the truth about McCaffery, but it did get a lesson in judicial power.

    “I find it really breathtaking that the court could ignore the clear desire by the people of Pennsylvania to create an independent judicial system,” he said. “It is as if to say, ‘The Supreme Court will not be reined in no matter what — no matter what anyone tries to do they are a law unto themselves. That’s what came out today.”

    State Supreme Court justices feel differently. They argue that they have the right to discipline their own members in order to protect the integrity of the court. Meanwhile, McCaffery may still face legal trouble if a state or county prosecutor decides to investigate further. But for now, he’s on track to retire with a full pension.

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