Petition for Review and for Declaratory Relief.
Robert Keuch, Executive Director, for Judicial Inquiry and Review Bd.
Nix, C.j., and Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
This case involves a petition for review and for declaratory relief filed by a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, seeking review of disciplinary action taken by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board (JIRB). The judge in question, to be referred to herein as XYP for purposes of confidentiality, received a letter from the JIRB informing him that he was being admonished for a violation of Canon 3(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct as a result of comments which he made in two opinions filed in one case.
XYP was unaware that such a letter might be forthcoming, for he had not been afforded any notice by the JIRB that his opinions were under review. The letter, dated May 12, 1989, and signed by the Executive Director and General Counsel for the JIRB, stated the following:
Following a review of the opinions written by you in [case name deleted], the Board has determined that its inquiries into this matter should be closed without any formal action being taken.
However, the Board has directed me to inform you that, in their view, the license taken by you in the opinions constitutes a violation of Canon 3(a) of the Code of Judicial Conduct which require[s] that a judge must be unswayed by partisan interest, public clamor, or fear of criticism and, most importantly, requires that a judge be patient, dignified, and courteous to lawyers and others with whom he deals in his official capacity. They have, therefore, directed me to admonish you that such conduct does not meet the standards required of the members of our judiciary by the Canons. The Board did consider all of the circumstances in this matter and, while they may understand the reasons behind your reactions, the Board concluded that the judicial immunity which a judge enjoys is a solemn and sacred trust that should not be used as a license for the types of opinions issued by you in this matter.
This admonishment will remain part of the permanent confidential records of the Board and should there be similar conduct on your part in the future or any other conduct which the Board finds to be misconduct, this admonishment will be given appropriate consideration in determining the Board's response to that misconduct.
The opinions referred to in the letter were those filed by XYP in response to motions for recusal lodged by the defendants in the relevant case. The relevant case was a class action involving damage claims against manufacturers of lead-based products which purportedly ...