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FINK v. SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

February 18, 1987

Harold B. Fink, President Judge, Fifty-Fifth Judicial District, Potter County, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Supreme Court Of Pennsylvania, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

 I. Introduction.

 II. Findings of Fact.

 1. Plaintiff Harold B. Fink is President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the Fifty-Fifth Judicial District, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

 2. An investigation with respect to Judge Fink began in 1984 when the Board received complaints regarding Judge Fink's conduct.

 3. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968 prescribes a procedure for the investigation and discipline of judges.

 4. The procedure for discipline of a judge begins with complaints filed with and hearings held by the Board.

 5. The Board is made up of voluntary appointees all of whom presently have full professional responsibilities aside from their duties as board members.

 6. The Board does not sit continuously.

 7. In October, 1985, the Board decided to convene a two board member preliminary investigation panel to conduct hearings with respect to complaints that had been filed against Judge Fink.

 8. Several preliminary investigatory hearings were held.

 9. The Board's counsel asked questions submitted by Judge Fink of witnesses during preliminary investigation hearings held on April 16 through 18, 1986.

 10. Judge Fink introduced evidence into the record of the preliminary investigation hearings.

 11. Judge Fink testified at the preliminary investigation hearings and was represented by counsel, D. Bruce Cahilly, Esq.

 12. The preliminary investigation ended in April, 1986.

 13. The transcript of the preliminary investigative hearings totals 533 pages of testimony of 15 to 18 witnesses and about 60 exhibits.

 14. A meeting of the Board was held on May 27, 1986, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 15. All Board members were present with the exception of Mr. Justice Kauffman who was ill.

 16. Upon the record of the preliminary investigative hearings the Board voted to recommend to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that Judge Fink be restricted to non-adjudicative duties.

 17. The minutes of the Board Meeting of May 27, 1986, read in relevant part: "Mr. McDevitt was requested to ask Robert Potter, Esquire to prepare a draft of Notice of Hearing in the Fink matter. Judge Bonavitacola was asked to prepare a form of letter to be submitted to the Supreme Court recommending the assignment of a Judge to Potter County and to restrict Judge Fink to non-adjudicative duties until the Board completes its investigation."

 18. A recommendation to suspend Judge Fink from adjudicatory function during the pendency of the formal hearings was made to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

 19. Judge Fink did not know that the Board had recommended to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that Judge Fink be deprived of adjudicative functions until his counsel received a copy of the minutes of the Board meeting of May 27, 1986, on January 29, 1987.

 20. Formal charges were drafted and sent to Judge Fink.

 22. Judge Fink requested and obtained from the Board several continuances.

 23. Judge Fink requested that the formal hearings be held in a continuous fashion.

 24. On July 1, 1986, Judge Fink filed a request for an extension of time within which to file an answer to the formal charges.

 25. On July 2, 1986, Judge Fink filed a motion that the formal hearings be held in Potter County.

 26. The request filed July 1, 1986, was granted and a new deadline for the filing of an answer was set for July 14, 1986.

 27. The motion to have the formal hearings held in Potter County was denied.

 28. On July 8, 1986, Judge Fink filed preliminary objections to the formal charges.

 29. On July 16, 1986, Judge Fink filed a motion with the Board to have the formal hearings held publicly.

 30. The Board expended time in an attempt to resolve Judge Fink's requests and motions.

 31. The Board denied Judge Fink's motion to have the formal hearings held in public.

 32. The relevant order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reads in its entirety: "AND, NOW, this 29th day of July, 1986, IT IS ORDERED that HAROLD B. FINK, President Judge, Fifty-Fifth Judicial District, Potter County, be and hereby is assigned to perform administrative and non-decisional judicial duties until further order of the Court. By the Court: Robert N.C. Nix, Jr., Chief Justice."

 33. The order is a de facto suspension from performing judicial adjudicative duties.

 34. The order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of July 29, 1986, was not preceded by notice to Judge Fink that he was subject to reassignment or suspension and there have not been any formal hearings, findings of fact, conclusions of law of record, or further orders in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania with regard to the suspension of Judge Fink.

 35. The Board's investigation and hearings were completed on February 9, 1987.

 36. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968 permits the assignment of a Common Pleas Judge from one court to another.

 37. The "assignment" of Judge Fink was not from one court to another but from acting as a full judicial officer to acting in only a ...


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