Avoiding even the appearance of what Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille calls “conflicts of interest and impropriety arising from a judge's staff employee practicing law ... and especially in a judicial chamber” must be the bottom line regarding a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice's lawyer wife/chief judicial aide accepting 18 client-referral fees from law firms over the past decade.You can read the Philly.com article here. While Scaife's braintrust dutifully pointed out that there's no state judicial requiring McCaffrey to disclose, it nevertheless just as ditifully quoted this sentence in the Philly piece:
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports such fees are routine. And, indeed, Justice Seamus P. McCaffery listed the fees of his wife, Lise Rapaport, on his financial-disclosure forms. But that doesn't allay concerns arising from him ruling on 11 cases involving law firms that paid his wife for referrals in other cases.
Mr. Justice McCaffery favored those firms' side in eight of those 11 cases — without disclosing his wife's ties to those firms from the bench. True, no state judicial rule required him to do so. But he should have recognized that his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” as the state Code of Judicial Conduct puts it, and recused himself, which the code urges judges in such situations to consider.
The state Code of Judicial Conduct says judges should in general consider recusing themselves when their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."This being the Trib, we can assume it left something out. And it did. The very next sentence of the Philly piece:
However, the code also says the fact that a spouse is affiliated with the firm in a case before the court "does not of itself" disqualify the judge.But I digress. I take no position here on the rightness or wrongness of McCaffrey's situation here. Only the braintrust's conclusion. In their final paragraph, they write:
But to fully protect their court's integrity — already severely tarnished by the public corruption conviction of suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin — the state's top jurists must do even more by avoiding such staff entanglements, disclosing them to litigants when germane and recusing themselves whenever even a hint of conflict might exist.Which is kinda funny considering they wrote this only a few short years ago:
Calls for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' recusal from ObamaCare cases over jobs his wife has held -- and for investigation of a donation he received 20 years ago -- are just political hocus-pocus aimed at obscuring a genuine pitfall for liberal Democrats' agenda.And, laughingly about how liberals are (wrongly) screaming for Thomas to recluse for:
...claiming the minor, now-corrected omission from her husband's financial disclosure forms of Ginni Thomas' 2010 salary from ObamaCare-repeal group Liberty Central and her Hillsdale College and Heritage Foundation jobs amount to conflicts of interest for him.Fact-check: That "now-corrected" omission was actually 20 years worth of minor.
Funny how when similar questions are raised against two Supreme Court Justices (granted, one Federal the other State of Pennsylvania), the braintrusts' responses are very different. For the Democrat it's a serious matter reflecting negatively on the reputation of the Court but for the Republican, it's mere "political hocus-pocus."