e CommonSense: The Judicial Conduct Board and how it works

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Judicial Conduct Board and how it works

This post is going to be long, because we did some research that we want to share. As most of you know, Judge Clouse has been under investigation by the Judicial Conduct Board for various allegations of misconduct, most related to engaging in partisan politics. Judge Clouse and his wife/girlfriend/consort, the omnipresent Lynn Cohen-Clouse, have insisted that all the allegations are false and politically motivated. They are also claiming that the Judicial Conduct Board has completed its investigation and that Clouse has been exonerated. This is far from true.

The investigation is ongoing, and we know of two persons who were interviewed, for several hours each, last week, by the investigator for the Judicial Conduct Board, himself a former FBI agent.

Let's look at the process, as described by the Judicial Conduct Board in its website:

The first step in the discipline process involves a preliminary inquiry into a complaint by the Board's staff. During this stage, you or other witnesses may be interviewed and documents other than those provided with your complaint may be reviewed. Once there is sufficient information to conclude the preliminary inquiry, the full Board will review the complaint.

At this stage, the Board is most likely to make one of two choices: Dismiss the complaint because it is clear that the allegations do not warrant disciplinary action against the accused judge; or Authorize a full investigation to determine if there is "clear and convincing evidence" of misconduct that warrants disciplinary action against the accused judge.

Clearly, the Board made its preliminary inquiry and decided to authorize a full investigation. That's why every third person in the Courthouse has been interviewed by that nice man from Harrisburg.

When the investigation is concluded, the Board will decide whether or not to file formal charges against Judge Clouse:

After a full investigation is authorized and conducted, the Board makes one of two choices: Dismiss the complaint because there is not "clear and convincing evidence" of judicial misconduct; or File formal charges against the accused judge with the Court of Judicial Discipline following a determination that there is "clear and convincing evidence" of judicial misconduct.

Based on other cases we have seen on the Judicial Conduct Board's website, or read about in the press, we think the Board will file formal charges with the Court of Judicial Discipline. We hear that the allegations are so numerous, and the evidence voluminous, and corroborated by multiple witnesses.

Look at some of the examples here: http://www.judicialconductboardofpa.org/PressReleases.html

Also look at this story from Allegheny County where it seems that the judges have a far lower threshold for bad behavior than our judges do: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05274/580839.stm

The allegations we have heard about Judge Clouse are far more widespread and severe than anything we can find on the Board's website or in the press. We have heard that he pressured attorneys appearing in his court to buy tickets to a fundraiser, that he personally vetted all candidates for commission in Haverford, and that he uses his office to reward the politically compliant and punish those who don't obey his will.

If we were Judge Clouse, we wouldn't be so cocky. The Judicial Conduct Board might have some teeth.


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