The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended one of its own this week. Four Justices of the state’s highest court, led by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, suspended their colleague, Justice Seamus McCaffery “on an interim basis.”
McCaffery has apologized for sending hundreds of emails featuring explicit and sexual content from a personal account. McCaffery said the emails were to friends and colleagues, but Philly.com reports that at least one state employee received some of the emails. In a concurring statement, Chief Justice Castille stated that one of the emails McCaffery sent depicted “a naked 100 year-old woman,” and another included a video of a woman, “in sexual congress with a snake.”
Citing, “the compelling and immediate need to protect and preserve the integrity of the Unified Judicial System and the administration of justice for the citizens of this Commonwealth,” four members of the court ordered McCaffery be relieved of his duties, and ordered him not to take any further judicial or administrative action in any case. The suspension does not affect McCaffery’s compensation.
Philly.com reports that McCaffery, a former Marine and Philadelphia police officer, has said that crude language and jokes were part of the vernacular of military and law enforcement. His lawyer condemned the suspension, and stated that Chief Justice Castille is pursuing a, “relentless crusade to destroy [McCaffery's] career and reputation.
Justice Debra McCloskey Todd strongly dissented from the court’s decision, condemning the lack of fact-finding prior to the suspension, and stating, “Even a Justice is entitled to due process.”
Although the court’s formal order maintains a judicial tone, Chief Justice Castille did not pull any punches. Noting that the investigation that revealed the McCaffery’s emails also implicated other public employees, Castille states, “At least several of those individuals have had the decency to resign, whereas the instigator of the pornographic emails still draws a taxpayer’s salary.” After recounting previous allegations of unrelated misconduct by McCaffery, and describing what he believes is McCaffery’s penchant for blaming others for his misdeeds, Castille then states, “Those pathological symptoms describe a sociopath.” Castille also freely admits, “Justice McCaffery is correct in one of his allegations against me. I have been attempting to remove Justice McCaffery from this Court.”
The court has appointed Pittsburgh attorney Robert L. Byer as special counsel to the court. It appears that Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board will now make a determination whether formal misconduct charges should be filed, though Castille stated that he would prefer to bypass the Board.
Whatever the merits of his beliefs about Justice McCaffery, Chief Justice Castille is likely correct that the matter only deepens the public perception of disarray at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Last year, a Pennsylvania trial court ordered former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin to undertake an unusual set of tasks as punishment for forcing her state employees to work on her judicial campaign.
Here is the court’s order.