Never heard of the “Kings Bench power”? Now you have. As the unusual case involving Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery takes yet another twist, this uncommon judicial tool has risen from the ashes. This rarely used power allows the state’s highest court to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction where there may be an issue of public well-being that in the interest of justice supersedes normal procedure. This novel procedure is different from extraordinary jurisdiction in that the Kings Bench power can be exercised on matters that are not even pending, while extraordinary jurisdiction is usually reserved for cases pending in lower courts. VA, FL, NM, NY, OK and WI also recognize the doctrine.
Justice McCaffery has admitted to sending over 200 sexually explicit emails from his personal account while in office. Reports make that number substantially higher, perhaps as many as 700-800. Apparently, there are more allegations including “published reports containing allegations that: Justice McCaffery may have improperly contacted a Philadelphia traffic-court official in connection with a traffic citation issued to his wife; Justice McCaffery may have acted in his official capacity to authorize his wife to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees from plaintiffs’ firms while she served as Justice McCaffery’s administrative assistant; and Justice McCaffery may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment on the Philadelphia common pleas bench outside the scope of his official duties.”
Using the Kings Bench power the PA Supreme Court immediately suspended McCaffery and appointed special counsel to handle the matter on behalf of the Court. The Judicial Conduct Board has been ordered to determine on an expedited basis if a legal ethics case should be pursued, and if not, issue a report to the Court explaining the lack of probable cause.
Oddly, despite the admission related to the explicit emails, McCaffery has gone on the offensive. He claims that this is a personal vendetta spearheaded by outgoing Chief Justice Ronald Castille. McCaffery’s attorney called the suspension part of an ongoing “relentless crusade” to destroy McCaffery’s career. Further, McCaffery has pointed the finger at fellow Justice J. Michael Eakin and accused Eakin of having his own cache of improper emails.
This matter is going to continue to fester for at least the next 30 days and probably on into the future. Stay tuned to the Defensive Line for updates.
For more on the developments click here.
For more on the allegations related to Justice Eakin, click here.
To read the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order, click here.