Judge resigns after facing multiple misconduct charges over courtroom outbursts
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A Pennsylvania judge who was facing misconduct allegations over outbursts at attorneys and litigants in his courtroom resigned Tuesday.
The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania filed multiple charges against Judge Thomas A. Placey of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in June 2020 for failing to “conduct himself in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.”
According to reports from PennLive.com and the Sentinel, Placey’s resignation letters to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer were followed by a motion from the judicial conduct board to withdraw four counts from its complaint that alleged that the judge’s conduct had “brought the judicial office into disrepute” in violation of the state’s constitution.
Placey could have lost his pension if he was convicted on those charges, PennLive.com reports.
Richard Long, chief counsel for the judicial conduct board, told the Sentinel that it agreed to withdraw them if Placey offered to step down early.
“The board considered that request and deemed it to be an acceptable arrangement,” he said.
Placey has been on the county bench since 2011 but already decided not to seek a second 10-year term in a retention election this year.
In its original complaint against Placey, the judicial conduct board cited five cases in which his “voice was extremely loud, and his tone was angry.”
In one case in 2019, Placey allegedly ejected an assistant district attorney from his courtroom for interrupting his question about a written restitution request. He also left the courtroom and when he saw her later after his return, he told the sheriff to “haul her out.”
“Lord have mercy,” Placey said, according to the complaint. “You show me enough disrespect all freaking day long. What is your problem? Get out of here.”
In an earlier case in 2017, in response to a hearsay objection, Placey allegedly stood and leaned over the responding party, who was seated at the witness stand, “causing him to abruptly slide his chair back, colliding with the wall behind him.”
“I’ll tell you when I’m coming back,” the judge told the responding party’s attorney. “It’s not going to be today. You get your client under control, or I am going to tear him up on the stand.”
In his July 2020 response to the complaint, Placey said he recognized a change in his behavior beginning in late 2018. He said he had received notices from the National Collegiate Athletic Association of the possibility of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which could be linked to concussions he endured playing football at Johns Hopkins University.
Placey also said in his response he had sought assistance from “Judges Concerning for Judges” in 2019 and joined the NCAA Concussion Management Medical Monitoring Program in 2020.
Ed Guido, Cumberland County’s president judge, confirmed Placey’s resignation Tuesday.
“I’m going to miss him,” Guido told PennLive.com. “He was a valued colleague and a close personal friend.”