192 A.3d 372 (Pa.Ct.Jud.Disc. 2018), 4 JD 14, In re Jennings

Docket Nº:4 JD 14
Citation:192 A.3d 372
Opinion Judge:BARTON, PRESIDENT JUDGE
Party Name:IN RE: Robert JENNINGS, III, Magisterial District Judge, Magisterial District Court 12-2-04, Dauphin County
Attorney:Robert A. Graci James P. Kleman, Jr., Deputy Counsel, Judicial Conduct Board Heidi F. Eakin, Esquire
Judge Panel:BEFORE: Honorable David J. Barton, P.J., Honorable David J. Shrager, Honorable Doris Carson Williams, J., Honorable Jeffrey P. Minehart, J., Honorable Michael J. Barrasse, J., Honorable Jazelle M. Jones, J., Honorable John H. Foradora, J., Honorable James C. Schwartzman, J.
Case Date:July 18, 2018
Court:Court of Judicial Discipline of Pennsylvania
 
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192 A.3d 372 (Pa.Ct.Jud.Disc. 2018)

IN RE: Robert JENNINGS, III, Magisterial District Judge, Magisterial District Court 12-2-04, Dauphin County

No. 4 JD 14

Court of Judicial Discipline of Pennsylvania

July 18, 2018

Page 373

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Robert A. Graci

James P. Kleman, Jr., Deputy Counsel, Judicial Conduct Board

Heidi F. Eakin, Esquire

BEFORE: Honorable David J. Barton, P.J., Honorable David J. Shrager, Honorable Doris Carson Williams, J., Honorable Jeffrey P. Minehart, J., Honorable Michael J. Barrasse, J., Honorable Jazelle M. Jones, J., Honorable John H. Foradora, J., Honorable James C. Schwartzman, J.1

OPINION

BARTON, PRESIDENT JUDGE

This case considers charges that a Magisterial District Judge forced several constables who served arrest warrants and civil process from his judicial office to contribute a percentage of their remuneration to his reelection fund.

I. INTRODUCTION

On November 14, 2014, the Judicial Conduct Board (Board) filed a Complaint against Magisterial District Judge Robert Jennings, III, alleging that then-Judge Jennings violated various provisions of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges and the Pennsylvania Constitution. These allegations included that Judge Jennings demanded constables receiving work from his judicial office contribute ten percent of their earnings to Judge Jennings’s reelection campaign fund. Contemporaneously, the Board filed a Petition to Suspend With or Without Pay, and this Court suspended Jennings with pay on November 17, 2014.

On September 18, 2015, the Office of Attorney General filed criminal charges against Jennings stemming from substantially the same conduct as was alleged in the disciplinary case.2 After the filing of the criminal case the Board filed a Petition asking the Court to change the suspension to one without pay. Through counsel Jennings filed a response, and the Court suspended Jennings without pay on July 29, 2015. Soon thereafter Jennings resigned his commission as a magisterial district judge in Dauphin County. The litigation of this case was stayed while the criminal case was prosecuted.3

On September 11, 2017, Jennings entered a plea of nolo contendere 4 to charges of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2906(a)(4) Criminal Coercion5 (M2), and

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18 Pa. C.S.A. § 7322 Demanding Property to Secure Employment6 (M3). Jennings was then sentenced to consecutive terms of one year of probation on each conviction and to pay applicable restitution.

The Board filed a Motion to Amend Complaint on October 13, 2017, alleging five violations as follows:7

1. Violation of Old Rule 2, Impropriety and Appearance of Impropriety to be Avoided:

A. Magisterial district judges shall respect and comply with the law and shall conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary[.]

2. Violation of Old Rule 12, Incompatible practices:

Magisterial district judges and all employees assigned to or appointed by magisterial district judges shall not engage, directly or indirectly, in any activity or act incompatible with the expeditious, proper and impartial discharge of their duties, including, but not limited to: (1) in any activity prohibited by law[.]

3. Violation of Article V, § 18(d)(l) of the Pennsylvania Constitution ("[magisterial district judge] may be suspended, removed from office or otherwise disciplined for ... conduct which prejudices the proper administration of justice ....")

4. Violation of Article V, § 18(d)(l) of the Pennsylvania Constitution ("a [magisterial district judge] may be suspended, removed from office or otherwise disciplined for ... conduct ... which brings the judicial office into disrepute, whether or not the conduct occurred while acting in a judicial capacity ....") and

5. Violation of Article V, § 17(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution ("[magisterial district judges] shall be governed by rules or canons which shall be prescribed by the Supreme Court.")

The parties filed Joint Stipulations of Fact in Lieu of Trial pursuant to C.J.D.R.P. No. 502(D) on May 21, 2018.8 The Joint Stipulations, which are accepted by this Court as the facts necessary to determine the issues in the case, consist of 15 paragraphs largely establishing the jurisdiction of this Court, the authority of the Board, the dates that Jennings served as a magisterial district judge, and the facts surrounding the criminal prosecution culminating in the nolo contendere pleas

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discussed herein. The stipulations pertinent to the charges include: 12. On September 11, 2017, former Judge Jennings pleaded nolo contendere to one count each of criminal coercion, in violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2906(a)(4), a misdemeanor of the second degree, and demanding property to secure employment, in violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 7322, a misdemeanor of the third degree. A copy of former Judge Jennings written nolo contendere plea colloquy is attached hereto, made a part hereof, and incorporated by reference, and marked as Exhibit 2; a copy of former Judge Jennings nolo contendere plea colloquy and sentencing transcript is attached hereto, incorporated by reference, and marked as Board’s Exhibit 3.

13. As a result of former Judge Jennings nolo contendere plea, Senior Judge Harold F. Woelfel sentenced former Judge Jennings to one year of probation on each count, to be served consecutively, and required him to pay...

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