Judge’s Abusive Conduct Evokes Dickens, Discipline Court Says
Posted Oct 31, 2008 8:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline has found that a county judge routinely belittled her staff, used court personnel to clean her home and created a “war”-like atmosphere with other judges.
The court’s strongly worded opinion found clear and convincing evidence that Judge Ann Lokuta of Luzerne County not only violated judicial canons but also the “standard of common decency,” the Times Leader reports.
“We will not belabor the point except to say, that reading the testimony in this case ... one gets the picture of something out of a Lewis Carroll or Dickens [novel] rather than of the chambers of a judge of the court of common pleas,” the discipline court said.
Lokuta told the Times Leader she was disheartened by the outcome. “I will avail myself to every remedy in the legal process, and I intend to fight this with every fiber of my being,” she said. “This coal miner’s daughter is not finished yet.”
Lokuta had claimed that the 30 witnesses who testified against her were pressured by the court’s former presiding judge to lie about her actions. The discipline court said that defense was “to put it gently, far-fetched.”
The discipline court found that Lokuta routinely belittled, berated and badgered court staff, traumatizing some employees so severely that they could no longer appear before her, the story says. The court also found Lokuta used court personnel to clean her home and rake her yard, care for ill mother, and handle other personal business.
“We dare say that the reasonable expectations of the public would include the expectation that a judge would not require her law clerk to spend her time raking the judge’s yard, bubble-wrapping the judge’s things or scrubbing the judge’s floors,” the court wrote.
The court also said Lokuta acknowledged a bias against certain lawyers and then issued rulings against them, and lodged a false complaint that a court administrator had grabbed an associate’s arm and screamed at them, according to the Times Leader account.