Suit Claims Pa. Ex-Chief Justice Traded Favorable Ruling for Judicial Pay Raises
Posted May 20, 2008 9:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters contends Pennsylvania’s former chief justice held secret meetings with legislators in which he promised a favorable ruling on a gambling law in exchange for judicial pay raises.
The suit (PDF posted by How Appealing) claims former Chief Justice Ralph Cappy told legislators "he needed the pay raise to secure the votes of Republican justices" on cases important to them, the Associated Press reports.
The suit says an unnamed state senator supplied the league with information about Cappy’s negotiations on the 2004 law legalizing slot machines.
The league had challenged the 2004 law, but most of its objections were rejected by the state supreme court in 2005. The legislature approved “substantial pay raises” for judges two weeks after the ruling, the AP story says.
The lawsuit says allegations have surfaced since at least the mid-1990s that some supreme court justices engaged “in brass-knuckles negotiations with legislative leaders to secure desired legislative outcomes.” The aggressive negotiating stance may be traced to the legislature’s refusal to fully fund the court system despite a decision requiring it.
“It seems likely that in the face of legislative intransigence, Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices determined that it was necessary to engage in the same style of hard-nose negotiating routinely waged between the executive and legislative branches of government and amongst members of the General Assembly,” the complaint states.
“In fact, because of the rough and tumble political culture in Harrisburg, plaintiff now believes that it is possible that justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania do not consider using cases as leverage to constitute a violation of due process concerns—especially if such tactics are used by the justices merely as a means of bluffing the legislature into compliance.”
A hat tip to How Appealing, which posted the AP story and the lawsuit.