McCaffery Temporarily Relieved of Duties

Judicial Conduct Board ordered to investigate Porngate, referral fees, Traffic Court allegations.

seamus mccaffery

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery has been relieved of his duties while the Judicial Conduct Board conducts a fast-track investigation into his involvement in the so-called Porngate scandal in Harrisburg.

McCaffery will be paid during his time away from the court.

The order goes beyond the circumstances of Porngate, however, as the order from the Supreme Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania suggests several matters in which McCaffery’s conduct will be investigated:

• Older reports that McCaffery tried to intervene with the now-defunct Philadelphia Traffic Court to give his wife “special consideration” on a traffic citation.

• Reports that McCaffery “may have acted in his official capacity to authorize his wife to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees from plaintiffs’ firms while she served as Justice McCaffery’s judicial assistant.” McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapport, are suing the Philadelphia Inquirer for its original story about the matter; they deny wrongdoing and say Rapaport earned the fees during times she was not working in her husband’s office.

• Reports that McCaffery exchanged “hundreds of sexually explicit emails” with a member or members of the office of Attorney General that contained “demeaning portrayals” of populations that include “women, elderly persons, and uniformed school girls.” McCaffery has apologized for the emails.

• And finally, the complaint filed by Justice J. Michael Eakin that McCaffery threatened to release materials to embarrass Eakin if Eakin didn’t try to persuade Chief Justice Ronald Castille to withdraw from his pursuit of McCaffery over the above matters. McCaffery has said Eakin misunderstood a friendly conversation.

The Judicial Conduct Board was ordered to determine, within 30 days, whether there is enough evidence to file formal misconduct charges against McCaffery on those accusations “or any matters which may be pending before the Board in which Justice McCaffery is the subject of complaint or inquiry.” The board will also be required to explain if it finds such evidence lacking.

Castille concurred with the order in a separate statement: “It would be impossible for this Court to function effectively while Justice McCaffery sits on this court.”

He added: “In my two decades on this court, no other Justice, including Justice Joan Orie Melvin, has done as much to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute.”

Justice Debra McCloskey Todd dissented, saying McCaffery was being suspended without due process.