Ethically Challenged Judge Gets Support From His Base

When suspended Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Nocella had to face the music two weeks ago — a hearing on misconduct charges before the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline — he wasn’t alone.

When I looked over the gallery at the courtroom, I recognized more than a dozen ward leaders and Democratic political activists and operatives who were there as character witnesses. They knew Nocella well, because for him and many Philadelphia Philadelphia judges, the route to the bench is through the Democratic City Committee.

Lynn Marks of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts was also in the audience. She spends her life promoting integrity among the judiciary and pushing the idea of merit selection in the Legislature — a hard way to make a living, you might say.

She was well aware of the disciplinary charges against Nocella, and appalled.

“There was a whole slew of not only unethical but illegal conduct,” Marks said, adding later in our conversation that it seemed enough to merit his removal from the bench.

What did Nocella do?

He collected a $60,000 fee on a real estate transaction in which he represented himself as the secretary of a VFW post where he wasn’t a member.

When he was the lawyer for a political committee under investigation by the city Board of Ethics, he admitted lying to the board’s lawyers and, with the committee’s treasurer, draining its assets, in the process giving himself a $2,500 fee. He was held in contempt of court and eventually paid a fine.

Nocella disclosed none of this to the Philadelphia Bar Association when it gave him a “recommended” rating in his 2011 campaign for the Common Pleas bench. That earned the ire of the Bar Association and the state Board of Judicial Conduct, which is pressing the case against him.

Nocella has already been suspended with pay by the state Supreme Court. The Court of Judicial Discipline could impose further sanctions, even remove him from the bench.

Nocella didn’t testify in his hearing, and declined comment afterward. His attorney, Samuel Stretton, doesn’t dispute the factual allegations against his client, including his pocketing the $60,000 from the VFW transaction.

“That obviously shouldn’t have happened, and it would be better if it hadn’t,” Stretton told me after the hearing. “I’m just looking overall at the experience and what he brings to this. Many of these areas were well known to the voters, and they chose him.”

A few voters, anyway.

Full Article and Source:
Ethically Challenged Judge Gets Support From His Philly Base

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2 Responses to “Ethically Challenged Judge Gets Support From His Base”

  1. StandUp Says:

    Now that's typical, isn't it?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    What voters choose him! His fellow attorney friends, or criminals! Or was he just the best one running. We are in trouble. The local Bars are usually the ones picking the Judges. Most people don't really know who is running for Judge, but the Bars know and they vote! We are in trouble! When are Judges going to be policed!

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