McCaffery Opposes Out-of-County Judge in Inky Lawsuit

Says there's no reason to believe local judges can't be impartial.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice suing the Inquirer is opposing a move to bring a non-Philadelphia judge in to try the case.

Dion Rassias, the lawyer for Justice Seamus McCaffery and McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, this week filed a motion objecting the defense request that an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case. Lawyers for the defendants had previously suggested that McCaffery’s close ties to Philadelphia courts could give local judges the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Not so, Rassias wrote in passionate defense of the impartiality of Philadelphia judges.

“There are no actual facts, either direct or implied, that support such a wild and wide-sweeping condemnation of the integrity of all of the judges in the First Judicial District,” Rassias wrote.

He later added: “The Defendant, in a filing that is completely contrived, has thrown a libelous blanket over the entire First Judicial District by stating plainly that none of the judges there could be impartial, or have the integrity necessary to carry out their important judicial functions in an impartial manner. This is a highly improper and highly offensive predicate from which to begin any analysis, and it is just wrong.”

No hearing has been scheduled on the recusal motion, as yet.

McCaffery and Rapaport filed suit against the Inquirer last month, followingInquirer articles in 2013 that detailed how Rapaport, McCaffery’s wife and chief judicial aide,received fees for steering cases to personal injury firms — and that in eight of 11 appeals, McCaffery voted for the position favored by the firms that had paid Rapaport in other cases.

After the articles appeared, the court adopted rules prohibiting judges from hiring relatives or sitting on corporate boards. The articles also prompted an FBI investigation, McCaffery acknowledged. In court filings, however, he has asserted that he has done “nothing wrong, illegal, or unethical,” and says the Inquirer’s reporting — along with the Daily News‘ editorializing on the issue — cast him and his wife in a false light.