The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 13, 2013

Felonies or fellow needs?

The report about the sentence imposed upon a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice who was convicted of corruption is rather astonishing. (The former justice had been convicted of "theft of services and other crimes" in using state employees in her election campaign). The county judge who imposed the sentence upon her reportedly admonished her and said, "These are felonies, this isn't a parking ticket...."

Now, let me see if I have this straight. The county judge then sentenced this fellow jurist to: (a) three years of house arrest, (b) having her picture taken and writing apologies on them addressed to other judges, and (c) not referring to herself as a judge while under sentence. In other words, she is grounded, like a teenager, and has been told to apologize -- not to the public whose trust she breached -- but to other members of the bench.

Without intending to second-guess the reasoning behind the decision, I wonder what impression it leaves upon the public's view of the 14th Amendment's "equal protection under the law." I cannot help thinking of the words of Justice Cardozo spoken nearly a century ago: "Many forms of conduct permissible in a workaday world for those acting at arm's length are forbidden to those bound by fiduciary ties ... Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor most sensitive is then the standard of behavior."

Anthony B. Ludovico,


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