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.