Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Pennsylvania Supreme Court

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The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Judicial Discipline ("CJD") erred in permanently removing Lehigh County Magisterial District Judge MaryEsther S. Merlo ("Appellant") from judicial office. After careful consideration, the Court found the CJD's sanction was lawful under the circumstances of this case. With regard to Appellant's work habits, the CJD concluded her practice of repeatedly calling off and consistently arriving late constituted a violation of MDJ Rule 4C, and that her conduct was "so extreme as to bring the judicial office into disrepute," constituting a violation of Pa. Const. art. V, sec. 18(d)(1). The CJD further determined Appellant's repeated absences, repeated continuances, and failure to dispose of truancy cases and sign paperwork in a timely manner demonstrated that she did not devote the time necessary for the prompt and proper disposition of the business of her office, in violation of MDJ Rule 3A, and that she neglected and failed to perform the duties of her office, again in violation of Pa. Const. art. V, sec. 18(d)(1). Finally, the CJD concluded Appellant's conduct violated the mandate of MDJ Rule 5A that a magisterial district judge diligently discharge her administrative duties and facilitate the performance of the administrative responsibilities of her staff, noting that Appellant's conduct actually interfered with, rather than facilitated, her staff's performance of their responsibilities: "[i]t is beyond hypocritical for a judge who repeatedly fails to appear, or consistently appears late, for scheduled court proceedings to lecture and impose sanctions upon a juvenile who is appearing before the judge due to truancy issues. Such conduct undermines the very purpose of the proceedings and makes a mockery of the judicial system." The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the CJD removing Appellant from judicial office and precluding her from holding judicial office in the future. View "In Re: Maryesther S. Merlo, Magisterial District Judge" on Justia Law