Legal Ethics

Luzerne, Pa., Arb Rules Change, as Judge Is Probed Over Panel Appointments

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In an apparent expansion of an ongoing probe into judicial corruption in Pennsylvania, a federal grand jury in Scranton is now hearing testimony about uninsured and underinsured motorist arbitrations in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.

A related investigation is also looking at the relationship between a Luzerne judge and a local lawyer, writes the National Law Journal. Reportedly, the judge may have failed to disclose a financial relationship with an attorney who appeared before him to the parties in the case, although the judge did disclose the relationship in filed financial documents, the legal publication writes.

“Controversy over the system for choosing neutral arbitrators in similar cases led Luzerne County’s judges last week to set new rules for how attorneys and judges should handle such requests,” reports the Times-Tribune.

Meanwhile, some judicial candidates are refusing to take campaign contributions from lawyers who might later come before them on the bench, reports the Times Leader.

Among them is Michael Blazick, who says he was influenced by a recent ABA Journal article not to do so, according to the newspaper.

However, donations from lawyers aren’t necessarily bad, because attorneys have a stake in electing the best judges, law professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh tells the Times Leader in another article.

It’s important, though, that such donations be a matter of public record, Hellman adds. “Once it’s public, lawyers have to think twice about how their donations will appear when they’re appearing before the judge.”

Earlier coverage: “3rd Pa. Judge on Hot Seat; Will Juvenile Convictions Be Reversed?” “Continuing Luzerne, Pa., Court Probe: Were Auto Accident Cases Fixed?”

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