Disorder in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Seamus McCaffery retires |

Disorder in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Seamus McCaffery retires

Seamus McCaffery did the right thing. But the blot on Pennsylvania’s judicial system won’t soon fade.

Mr. McCaffery, suspended with pay from the state Supreme Court last week, retired from the high court on Monday. Few doubt he would have been removed from the bench, eventually, in a pornographic email scandal that stunned the public and the legal community.

Aside from the obvious impropriety of, in 2008 and 2009, sending randy emails to the state account of a friend who worked in the state Attorney General’s Office (and then redistributed to others in that office), the underlying question was whether such contact represented a conflict of interest. The justice could have heard cases developed by those with whom he so ribaldly fraternized. Even the appearance of a conflict was unacceptable.

But, of course, this case was about more than dirty emails and conflicts of interest. It was the crescendo to a long-running feud between McCaffery and retiring Republican Chief Justice Ronald Castille. In the court’s suspension order, one that read more like a posting on an attack blog, Mr. Castille accused McCaffery of myriad legal improprieties and even pondered whether he might be a “sociopath.”

The McCaffery scandal follows last year’s felony convictions of Justice Joan Orie Melvin for campaigning on the public dime. Repairing the reputation of a high court in shambles now falls to incoming Chief Justice Thomas Saylor. And it is a tall order indeed.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.