Pennsylvania Judge charged over retention election “recommendation”

The Philadelphia Judicial Conduct Board filed disciplinary charges in late October against Common Pleas Judge Thomas M. Nocella.  The charges alleged he violated the state’s code of judicial conduct.  (Philly.com stories here an here).

The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board press release is here.  The complaint is attached.

In November, he was suspended, and according to his lawyer, that was before he had any opportunity to respond to the charges.  (Story here).

Here’s the interesting part.  According to Philly.com, Judge Nocello is accused of misrepresenting his qualifications to win a city bar association recommendation for judicial election.  He is alleged to have omitted certain lawsuits involving him from the list.

Nocella is alleged to have violated Canons 7B(1)(c), and 2A.

2A is:

CANON 2: Judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities.

A. Judges should respect and comply with the law and should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

In essence, Nocella is accused of not respecting the law and his obligations.

Under CANON 7: “Judges should refrain from political activity inappropriate to their judicial office.”  Canon 7B(1)(c) appears to be new, and requires judges for judicial officer, including incumbent judges, should not misrepresent their qualifications.

It would be interesting to know when this was added (it is not in the version of the judicial code that is still on the Board’s website), and whether it was added so these charges could be brought against Nocella.

Those of you interested in process will note that he has only 30 days to file an “omnibus” motion (there is no acknowledged process for an omnibus motion in Minnesota disciplinary matters, so acknowledgement of one is good, but preparing one in 30 days seems like a rush).

The judge has the right to an evidentiary hearing.  If clear and convincing evidence is found, he has a right to a separate “sanctions” (like a sentencing) hearing to decide what discipline should be levied.  This is important for due process.  In Minnesota, the lawyers get only one hearing, which has led to impermissible melding of accusations (and denials of same) with sentencing (and the notion the lawyer should receive greater sanctions because of the denials to the accusations).

Philly.com mentioned Nocella being close to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.  Brady’s website says he “has been a leading advocate for election reform.”  There’s nothing about Brady in the formal charges, and it’s hard to know what role that plays, if any.