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Sunday
Jan172010

417. It keeps getting worse in NE Pennsylvania

You and I might think it's a bad thing for a judicial standards board to ignore detailed evidence of wrongdoing by judges on the ground that the wrongdoing is so wrong that the FBI is investigating it.

But that's the difference between you and I and judicial standards boards:

When the [Pennsylvania] state Judicial Conduct Board received an anonymous eight-page complaint in 2006 about alleged wrongdoing by a Luzerne County judge, it reportedly deferred conducting an investigation because there was an ongoing outside criminal probe of the judge.

That judge, Michael T. Conahan, and another, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., were charged last year by federal authorities with taking $2.8 million in kickbacks to send juveniles to for-profit detention centers in what has become known as the "kids-for-cash" scandal.

This month, the board reaffirmed its discretion to defer with newly adopted operating procedures...

Paul H. Titus, a lawyer retained by the board, said yesterday that "there are very practical reasons for the board deferring to prosecutors." Titus said the board does not have the resources to conduct criminal investigations, especially for something like the Luzerne County probe, which involved federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the IRS over three years.

Of course no "deferring" of any kind was going on.  No one was suggesting the board should conduct criminal investigations, just as no one suggested the FBI should investigate violations of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct

The board's explanation for its inaction was gibberish.  I sympathize with Mr. Titus, though.  State judicial standards boards exist to preserve "public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."  A coherent explanation would have defeated that purpose.

But wait!  There are many more sewers left to be explored in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre area:

A northeast Pennsylvania judge who took over a capital murder case from another judge who pleaded guilty to corruption charges has been accused of pushing his wife down and choking her.

Perry County Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp has been charged with simple assault and harassment.

State police say Rehkamp and his wife were arguing Saturday night at their home in Plymouth Township when another person broke them up. Police say Rehkamp fled.

You can see Judge Rehkamp's official photo at the Citizens' Voice website.  It could pass a mug shot but for the wood paneling background with the obligatory flag.  The paper describes the circumstances of the unpleasantness with the circumspection of the libel-shy:

The argument turned physical, and police said Rehkamp pushed the victim down, slamming her into a chair, then placed both hands on her neck and began choking her until a third party interrupted. Rehkamp then fled the scene.

The argument turned physical, mind you.  That's better than a person becoming violent. 

I think we can accept as a given that Judge Rehkamp will skate, unless he's made some particularly ill-advised choices about his personal enemies.

Oh, and the big murder case Rehkamp was slated to preside over?  It had to do with a husband accused of killing his wife.  And even that story has an angle that shines yet more light on the spectacularly dysfunctional court system of northeastern Pennsylvania, according to newspaper stories posted over at Family Court Crisis.

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