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.