The Bradford Era ( http://bit.ly/MpAHim) first reported Tuesday that Coudersport District Judge Annette Easton has been temporarily removed from hearing cases in her office, about 140 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, by Potter County President Judge Steve Minor.
Easton's attorney, Samuel Stretton, told the AP that the district judge didn't provide the information that caused the trooper to be cited, but said some investigators believed she might have been the source and later found, through a computer search, that she had accessed his driving record.
Trooper Justin LeMaire, who works out of the Coudersport barracks, pleaded guilty on March 5 and paid $111 in court costs, but no fine is recorded in online court records.
The Associated Press could not locate a phone number for LeMaire and the supervising crime corporal at the barracks referred all questions to a state police spokesman in Harrisburg. The spokesman, Sgt. Anthony Manetta, told the AP that LeMaire remains employed, but said he could offer few details otherwise.
In general, Manetta said an internal investigation is done any time a trooper receives a traffic citation or is accused of any more serious crime. But Manetta couldn't say whether that investigation is complete, or whether LeMaire was ever disciplined, suspended or placed on restricted duty as a result of the citation or for letting his license expire in the first place.
"I can tell you that summary traffic violations, generally, are not cause for dismissal from the Pennsylvania State Police," Manetta said.
Judge Minor's staff said he can't comment on Easton's status, except that it won't change until after another judge hears her appeal of two summary convictions and $1,000 in fines.
Stretton said Easton was found guilty of illegally disclosing the driver's license records of both troopers. Court records show a state trooper from the Lamar barracks in Clinton County cited her March 16 for actions that allegedly occurred Feb. 9.
Stretton acknowledged Easton accessed the records, but contends that's legal.
"All she did was look at the man's driving license and his driving record, which is public record, which showed his driver's license was expired—this state officer who was driving around arresting people," Stretton said.
A PennDOT spokeswoman didn't immediately return calls for comment, but state law states it's illegal for police or "any employee or agent of any Commonwealth agency or local authority which makes or receives records ... to sell, publish or disclose or offer to sell, publish or disclose records or reports which relate to the driving record of any person."
Stretton said he self-reported the judge's citations to the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct and can bring charges before the Court of Judicial Discipline. That court can censure judges up to removal from office.
Stretton previously represented Easton in 2005 after then-Potter County District Attorney Jeff Leber tried to get her disqualified from hearing most criminal cases because she allegedly kept an "(expletive) list" of three Coudersport-based state troopers and two borough police officers she didn't like, and also referred to Leber as "The Evil One." Stretton said the Court of Judicial Discipline settled disciplinary charges against Easton informally in that instance, and contends she is a good judge who sometimes angers local police simply because she doesn't automatically find traffic offenders and others guilty.
"Really, this is much ado about nothing," Stretton said.