Update; Yup, another ‘early retirement’.
Greene County judge charged with judicial misconduct (Pennsylvania)
Originally Published; May 15, 2020
A Greene County judge faces charges of judicial misconduct in the handling of several criminal cases, including one in which he ordered a woman jailed for 25 days in alleged retaliation for a 2017 incident involving his law clerk.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board filed a 21-count complaint against President Judge Farley Toothman, who serves on the Greene County Court of Common Pleas. The complaint was filed Thursday with the state Court of Judicial Discipline.
The board accuses Judge Toothman of retaliating against a woman, Christy McCarty, who was a customer at a Sunoco gas station and convenience store near the courthouse in Waynesburg on Sept. 6, 2017, when she questioned the actions of the judge’s law clerk Alexsandra Chamberlain, who was also at the station. McCarty left, the complaint said, but Chamberlain felt as though she was being accused of theft, so she confronted the store clerks.
Store employees told her they were not accusing her of anything, but stated they would have their supervisor review surveillance video later because she appeared “suspicious,” the complaint said.
The law clerk left and returned to Judge Toothman’s chambers, where she told him about the incident, according to the complaint. The complaint said the judge then went to the gas station with Chamberlain to talk to the employees, but the judge and his law clerk were asked to leave due to “harassment.”
Judge Toothman called police and had them investigate, but no charges were filed in the matter against either of the women.
The Judicial Board’s filing stated that Judge Toothman told his staff to search McCarty’s court records and ordered an immediate hearing the next day for her without prior notice in an unrelated case. At the closed-door hearing, which was held without attorneys or prosecutors present, Judge Toothman found McCarty guilty of civil contempt for allegedly violating a payment plan in connection with that case.
She was held for 25 days at the Greene County Prison, the complaint said.
In an Oct. 2, 2017 hearing, the Judicial Board complaint stated, the judge asked McCarty if she was going to be a “good girl” after her time in jail. She was released that day. No payments were made during her incarceration.
The Judicial Board also accused the judge of attempting to cover up misdeeds by having courthouse staff sign non-disclosure agreements. One such employee, a custodial worker, refused, the complaints states.
The judge could not be reached for comment on the charges but told the Observer-Reporter newspaper Thursday night that the complaint was regrettable.
“I do my best every day,” Judge Toothman said. “I respect the system and will comply with the process.”
Judge Toothman has 30 days to respond to the complaint.
If the Court of Judicial Discipline finds Judge Toothman to be guilty of any of the charges in the complaint, a hearing will be held to determine what sanction should be imposed. Sanctions include censure, suspension, fines and removal from office.
Judge Toothman resigning from bench in Greene County
Originally Published; Dec 7, 2020 | Republished by LIT: Dec 31, 2020
WAYNESBURG – Judge Farley Toothman is resigning from his seat on the bench next month just before he was expected to go to trial on charges of judicial misconduct.
Toothman, who had already stepped down from his position as president judge at the Greene County Courthouse, sent his letter of resignation to Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday announcing his departure, effective Jan. 4.
The Administration of Pennsylvania Courts confirmed Monday that it had received the 64-year-old jurist’s “early retirement” letter and was processing his resignation.
Toothman has been on “temporary leave” from the bench since Oct. 5 after he was accused of judicial misconduct in the handling of several cases when the state Judicial Conduct Board filed a 21-count complaint against him in May.
“I have learned that there is no effort without error and shortcoming and that at times there becomes an unforgiving professional and personal toll that is unhealthy,”
Toothman said in a written statement Monday.
“For my mistakes, I apologize, and the regrets I shall carry with me.”
The charges go back to an incident in 2017 in which he allegedly interfered with a retail theft investigation into his law clerk at a Waynesburg convenience store. He also is accused of interfering with a county probation staff meeting to learn who was handling the probation for a woman, who accused his law clerk of shoplifting at that store, involved in an unrelated lower court case. He sentenced the woman, who was performing community service, to a month in jail for unpaid fines.
Other complaints against him include retaliating against a janitorial employee, and improperly handling a case involving the division of marital property and another over a protection from abuse.
Attorneys for Toothman and the state Judicial Conduct Board are scheduled for a pretrial conference on Jan. 19 with the Court of Judicial Discipline to discuss evidence and witnesses. Toothman could have been removed from office, and he may still face a fine.
Lou Dayich, who was elevated to president judge Nov. 1 after Toothman stepped down from that position, politely declined to comment Monday.
Senior Judges Hiram Carpenter of Blair County and Anthony Vardaro of Crawford County have been filling in on the bench during Toothman’s leave of absence, and it’s now expected for them to continue in that part-time role next year, pending AOPC approval. Toothman had already announced he would not run for retention next year, so his seat on the Court of Court Common Pleas in Greene County will be open for election next November.
Toothman was nominated by former governor Ed Rendell in March 2009 to fill the seat vacated when H. Terry Grimes retired, and he was confirmed by the state Senate seven months later. Toothman won a full 10-year term on the bench in 2011, and later took over as president judge upon William Nalitz’s retirement. His term is set to expire in January 2022.
“As I surrender the gavel and my record to the past, I realize that even in these very unusual times, it will also be at the beginning of something else,”
Toothman said in his statement.
“But as it has always been for me … serving the people of Greene County is an honor and privilege, for which I will always be grateful.”