Pa. Judicial Court lowers boom on Nocella
It's just not a good season for judges in Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline has found that Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Nocella "lied repeatedly" about his qualifications to a Bar Association committee reviewing his candidacy and has violated standards of judicial conduct and the state constitution.
"We believe it to be beyond dispute that a judge — or one who would be a judge — who is willing to lie — and in official documents ... is not one who can be expected to encourage, indeed to insist that truth be spoken in his courtroom," the board said in its opinion.
Nocella had already been suspended with pay by the state Supreme Court. The Court of Judicial Discipline suspended him without pay, and will consider other sanctions at a hearing to be scheduled soon.
Nocella's attorney, Samuel Stretton, said in a brief phone interview that he hadn't yet read the decision, but that he looked forward to the sanctions hearing so the matter can be resolved.
"We've admitted most of the violations," Stretton said. "This case has always been about the nature of the discipline, not the violations -- whether he should be removed from bench, and if so, for how long."
The case against Nocella was brought by the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board. Chief Counsel Robert Graci said in a prepared statement that he was pleased with the court's decision.
"The bar is committed to fulfilling its constitutional obligation of preserving the integrity of the Pennsylvania judiciary through active and appropriate enforcement actions such as this one that struck at the heart of the electoral process," Graci said.
Nocella was appointed a Municipal Judge by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2008 and elected a Common Pleas Judge in 2011. He spent years providing free legal services to the Democratic city committee, which earned him the party's support in his quest for the bench.