February 3, 2009
Loss Of Objectivity Leads To Censure
A lawyer who had asserted in his reply brief in a will contest appeal that the decision below was "politically motivated" was censured by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court followed the recommendation of its Disciplinary Board. The complaint was filed by opposing counsel but the judge testified at the hearing and denied that his decision was motivated by politics. the board found that the lawyer produced no evidence to support the contention. The attorney had been subject to a private reprimand in 2006 for an earlier attempt to exhume the body of the same person whose will was contested in the instant matter.
The attorney offered a mea culpa in the bar proceeding: "he should have phrased his comments in a better manner...he did not offer the comments with a motive to malign [the judge]." The board found that he "became too personally involved in the matter and lost his objectivity and his professionalism...which culminated in [his]excessive hyperbole in his Reply Brief."
The alleged favoritism involved the scrivener of the will, who was the spouse of a federal district court judge. The district court judge had previously served on the court where the litigation took place.
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