Experts: McCaffery Clearance “Unusual”

The U.S. Attorney's Office usually keeps mum about investigations. So why did it publicly help Seamus McCaffery?

We told you Tuesday night that Seamus McCaffery, the (suspended) Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, had dropped his defamation suit against the Inky. That paper had reported on referral fees McCaffery’s wife took while he was on the bench: The case went away when the paper agreed to report that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had issued a statement clearing McCaffery of wrongdoing in the matter.

The Legal Intelligencer says today that such statements by federal prosecutors are pretty unusual.

Peter Vaira, a white-collar defense attorney and former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said these types of statements are rare because the office can never know what new evidence it might come across. But he said the investigations could always be reopened.

Vaira said the issues surrounding McCaffery had become increasingly public. He said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger is a “principled guy” and may have just wanted to take his office out of the battle.

“This has become so media-conscious and his office has become part of the story that he just wanted the hell out of there,” Vaira surmised.

But that clearance may not help McCaffery as much as he hoped. Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board has been directed to investigate the matter — as part of the broader “Porngate” investigation into McCaffery — and experts said the determination that McCaffery doesn’t merit federal charges will have “little impact” on a  state-level process. The JCB has been given 30 days to complete its investigation.