State chief justice confirms ethics inquiry after affidavit alleges racial comment

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Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor is facing an ethics probe after an affidavit accused him of criticizing a former justice for creating "trouble" with her “minority agenda."

Saylor confirmed Wednesday that he received an “informal letter of inquiry” from the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board, report Law.com, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Law360 and the Associated Press.

Saylor was accused of making the comment about former Justice Cynthia Baldwin while discussing an ethics complaint that would be filed against her for conduct as general counsel of Pennsylvania State University. Baldwin would later be reprimanded for conflicts in her representation of university officials before a grand jury investigating the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case. Sandusky had worked as an assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University.

The affidavit by Judge Barry Feudale, the judge who managed the Sandusky grand jury, alleges that Saylor told him about the forthcoming complaint during a judicial conference in 2012 and encouraged his cooperation.

Saylor “specifically stated that he expected me to assist in every way with providing information in support of the disciplinary investigation,” Feudale stated in the affidavit. “I was stunned. I responded that he must be aware of the ambit of grand jury secrecy and the prohibition of any disclosures for such an investigation.

“Justice Saylor responded that this assistance and discipline was necessary because ‘she caused us a lot of trouble when she was on the [state] supreme court with her minority agenda,’” Feudale wrote in the affidavit. Baldwin was a justice in 2006 and 2007.

In a statement issued through the court last month, Saylor admitted speaking to Feudale, but he denied saying anything of a racial nature. He also denied speaking about potential disciplinary charges.

“The [state] supreme court plays an important supervisory role with respect to grand juries,” the statement said. “At the time, there was much reporting in the media about the tremendous controversy surrounding the representation of officials of the Pennsylvania State University in the grand jury proceedings before former Senior Judge Feudale. Justice Saylor asked him, entirely appropriately, what had happened.”

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