Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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The Judicial Conduct Board filed a complaint against Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) Thomas Carney, alleging that appellee Carney violated Article V, section 18(d)(1) of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Rules 2A and 11 of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges. Following the Court of Judicial Discipline’s dismissal of the Board’s complaint, the Board appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the CJD erred in concluding that appellee did not violate any of the enumerated provisions. Two separate incidents gave rise to charges against appellee. One involved his work on an anti-graffiti task force and the solicitation of donations for the group’s work. The other involved a traffic incident in which appellee displayed his middle finger to the occupants of another car he tried to pass along the interstate; the drivers exchanged obscenities, and the incident ended with appellee rolling down his window, driving alongside the other vehicle, and displaying a silver handgun for the other car to see. Police were called, and charges were filed: making terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering another person. Following a trial, the CJD concluded appellee did not violate Rule 11 with regard to the solicitation of donations for the task force. Further, the CJD concluded the Board failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that appellee’s conduct was so extreme as to bring his office into disrepute. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and part. The Court affirmed the CJD in its conclusion with regard to the task-force solicitations. But the Court disagreed that the Board did not establish appellee’s conduct was “so extreme as to brought the judicial office itself into disrepute.” That portion of the CJD’s order was reversed and the case remanded for the imposition of a sanction consistent with the misconduct. View "In Re: Carney, Magisterial District Judge" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case was one of first impression: whether a medical general practitioner who provides incidental mental health treatment to a patient, with whom he then engages in a sexual affair, may be held to a particularized "specialist duty," applicable to mental health professionals, that prohibits consensual sexual contact with patients, such that the defendant general practitioner may be subject to medical malpractice liability in tort. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court declined to impose such a duty as a matter of Pennsylvania common law. Accordingly, the Court vacated the Superior Court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings on any preserved issues remain that were not addressed as a result of the Superior Court's disposition. View "Thierfelder v. Wolfert" on Justia Law

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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