Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Indicted judge took my advice

The political shelf life of Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce expired in less than five days.

Judge Joyce announced his retirement Monday, the same day his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Joyce to a federal indictment charging the judge with bilking insurance companies for $440,000.

The retirement came just five days after federal prosecutors announced the charges and three days after Joyce vowed to stay in the race to win retention to another 10-year term on the state's second highest court.

In a matter of days, the Erie Republican went from respected jurist to legal pariah. A federal indictment will do that to you. Joyce was suspended Friday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but the suspension was with pay ($165,000 a year) and did not preclude him from running for re-election.

As I mentioned in my weekend posting, Joyce needed to step down immediately. The indictment alone, regardless of whether he's found guilty, sealed his fate. Terms like mail fraud and money laundering don't play well in election campaigns.

Both political parties will now nominate candidates to battle for Joyce's seat on the bench.

The criminal case against Joyce stems from an August 2001 traffic accident that he said left him in such pain that he was unable to exercise or play golf for more than a year, The Associated Press reported. Prosecutors say the judge's car was rear-ended by another vehicle at about 5 mph, and that he faked his injuries to cash in on the insurance money, the AP said.

The indictment says Joyce was playing 18-hole rounds on courses as far away as Jamaica, going scuba diving and inline skating, and working out at a local gym, according to the AP. Joyce used the insurance money to buy a motorcycle and make down payments on a house and plane, the indictment alleges, according to the wire service.

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