Saturday, August 18, 2007

Judging the Judge

Being a judge is probably one of the best jobs any lawyer can hope to have, and competition to serve on the bench is keen, even with the relatively low pay.  Given how good the position can be, you wonder why anyone would risk it by engaging in a fraud.  According to an indictment in the Western District of Pennsylvania, a state appellate court judge in Erie is accused of defrauding two insurance companies through the age-old scam of faking an injury from a bogus automobile accident.  A press release (here) states:

[T]he indictment alleges that [the Judge] was involved in a low-speed automobile accident in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania, on August 10, 2001.  Although neither medical nor law enforcement personnel were called to the accident scene, [the Judge] subsequently sought damages from State Farm Insurance, which insured the driver of the other vehicle, and his own insurer, Erie Insurance Group, for pain and suffering related to alleged injuries he received during the accident.

The indictment alleges that [the Judge] 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.

According to the indictment, 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, the indictment alleges that between April 2002 and October 2002, [the Judge] applied for and received a private pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration and piloted an airplane on approximately 50 occasions.

In addition, the indictment alleges that [the Judge], in support of his claims, 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.

An "ignorance of the law" defense is probably a non-starter.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order (here) suspending the Judge from his duties on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, although it is with pay.  According to a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (here), the Judge intends to run in a retention election in November, and he said that once all the facts are presented he will be cleared.  (ph)

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