Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Fortune Cookie And The Eggshell

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who served as a Superior Court judge from 1998 to 2007.

The attorney was indicted and convicted in federal court for offenses arising from an automobile accident that took place while he was a judge. He made false assertions that resulted in insurance payments of $370,000 and $50,000. He used his judicial letterhead and referred to his judicial office in the insurance matter.

Jonathan Turley had this report on the trial:

Presiding judge Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. agreed that the publicity surrounded the trial could taint the jury pool and moved the trial to Pittsburgh. The prosecution will focus on actions taken before and after the August 2001 slow-speed collision that Joyce said left him severely injured. The accident brought Joyce $440,000 in an insurance settlement.

The case is likely to bring out some rather bizarre elements, such as the fact that Joyce was basically living in his chambers before the accident after breaking up with his girlfriend and telling his landlord that he could only afford $100 a month in rent.

After the accident, however, the prosecution alleges that Joyce went on a spending spree buying a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a plane, a house and a hot tub, and spending $6,000 for cosmetic surgery for his girlfriend. The prosecutors will also show that Joyce went in-line skating at Presque Isle State Park on Sept. 2, 2002, while his insurance claims claimed that he was severely injured with debilitating neck and back injuries.

Erie Insurance settled Joyce’s claim within three months and most notably never demanded an independent medical examination.

The case will also involve a claim of being an “eggshell thin skull” claimant — saying that, while the accident was at a low speed, he was susceptible to severe because he had undergone cervical-fusion surgery in 1992. It could be a stretch since the accident occurred at the not-so-break-neck speed of 5 miles an hour.

The evidence at trial and the sentencing was summarized by the FBI:

Evidence presented at trial established that Joyce falsely claimed to Erie Insurance Group and/or State Farm Insurance that the accident had adverse effects on his professional and personal life, including rendering him unable to golf, scuba dive, and exercise and preventing him from pursuing higher judicial office.

During the same time period that Joyce made these claims, he played multiple rounds of golf in Runaway Bay, Jamaica; Tampa, Florida; Findley Lake, New York; and Fairview, Pennsylvania; went scuba diving in Runaway Bay, Jamaica and renewed his diving instructor certificate with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors; went roller blading on multiple occasions; and exercised at the Nautilus Fitness and Racquet Club in Millcreek Township. Also, between April 2002, and October 2002, Joyce applied for and received a private pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration and piloted an airplane on approximately 50 occasions. In addition, Joyce, in support of his claims, falsely asserted that he had received the Republican endorsement and nomination in the 2001 election for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2002. In fact, he had neither the endorsement nor the nomination.

Additional evidence at trial established that Joyce received two payments totaling $440,000 from insurers: $50,000 from State Farm Insurance in settlement of his bodily injury insurance claim relative to the August 10, 2001, accident and $390,000 from Erie Insurance Group in settlement of an insurance claim under the underinsured motorist provision of his own automobile coverage relative to the accident. After receiving the Erie Insurance payment, Joyce used the fraudulently obtained funds to open an individual brokerage account, through which he purchased real property in Millcreek Township interest in a 1978 Cessna 206 airplane and a Harley‑Davidson motorcycle.

As part of his sentence, Judge Cohill ordered Joyce to surrender real property in Erie, Pennsylvania and vehicles, including a 2003 Harley-Davidson. reported that the former judge has sued the insurance companies. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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Personal Injury and insurance fraud are a big issue in the UK - incredible that on a societal level, it appears to be considered to be almost acceptable even by the highest echelons.

Posted by: ERFB | Jun 18, 2012 2:14:53 AM

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