The trial process is set to begin in the case of Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Placey, with a scheduling order from the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline setting a pre-trial conference for late March.
The case against Placey was filed in June by the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board, which has accused Placey of mishandling cases in several instances where the judge’s explosive temper has allegedly resulted in matters before his court not being properly heard.
Placey filed a defense brief in July claiming that his erratic behavior is the result of chronic head injuries from his college sports career, and that he is seeking treatment.
The Court of Judicial Discipline has the power to hear cases investigated by the Judicial Conduct Board and, after a trial, levy penalties upon judges that can include fines, suspension or removal from the bench.
The conduct board’s investigation began in the wake of a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision from January 2019 that vacated Placey’s ruling in a 2017 case regarding the marital settlement of Monroe Township resident Tony Samento.
The Superior Court opinion cited questionable behavior and poor jurisprudence by Placey in the Samento case, with the court finding that Placey had infringed on Samento’s due process rights by becoming furious with Samento and physically looming over him after Samento spoke out of turn during a hearing, for which he immediately apologized to no avail, according to the hearing transcript.
Placey ended the hearing and inexplicably did not reschedule it before rendering an opinion that included dubious legal reasoning, the Superior Court wrote.
The Judicial Conduct Board’s subsequent investigation and filings before the disciplinary court detail multiple other instances in which Placey is alleged to have become enraged over seemingly minor slights, with his outbursts hampering the presentation of arguments and testimony, and endangering the due process of those who appeared in his court, the board alleged.
Placey’s conduct “was so extreme that it brought the judicial office itself into disrepute,” thereby violating the state’s judicial code and the state constitution, the board wrote.
Placey’s own brief in the matter asserts that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, related to his college sports career is to blame for the erratic behavior. A person by Placey’s name played football for the Johns Hopkins’ Blue Jays in 1981 and 1982, according to the Hopkins athletic office.
Placey has sought treatment for his anger management and is enrolled in a monitoring program run by the National College Athletic Association, his attorney wrote in the July brief.
Judge Ronald Marsico has been named conference judge to oversee the pre-trial process, according to the Court of Judicial Discipline.
Pre-trial memorandums from Placey and the conduct board, detailing expected witnesses and evidence to be presented, are due to Marsico by March 25.
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