Impeachment unlikely for Shrewsbury-area judge
It's unlikely the state Legislature will take up proceedings to impeach embattled District Judge Jeffrey Scott Joy, at least for now, two local lawmakers said.
Joy, 50, faces various charges after two woman alleged the first-term Shrewsbury-area judge had inappropriate sexual contact with them.
Reps. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, whose legislative districts include parts of the judicial district covered by Joy's office, said they were disgusted and appalled when they learned of the accusations and criminal charges against Joy.
However, they said they prefer Joy's status as a judge be left in the hands of the justice system instead of legislators taking up the matter.
"At this point I think it's important for the criminal justice process to proceed," Klunk said. "If the charges are true and he's in fact guilty, he should step down."
But, she added, Joy is innocent until proven guilty and needs to be afforded due process.
Charges: Joy was charged earlier this month with the misdemeanors of official oppression and indecent assault for allegedly groping a woman whose boyfriend had appeared before Joy in court.
On Wednesday, state police filed a new set of charges against Joy for allegedly offering to toss out a different woman's court fines if she modeled lingerie for him. Those charges include two counts of bribery in official and political matters, which are third-degree felonies.
Joy, of 13 S. Fourth St. in New Freedom, remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail, meaning he did not have to post any money to be released but could forfeit the entire amount if he fails to attend court proceedings.
Defense attorney Chris Ferro has said the allegations against Joy are false and without merit.
York County President Common Pleas Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh ordered Joy removed from all court duties until further notice when the first set of charges were handed down.
"I'm just happy he's been removed from hearing cases," Klunk said.
The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania on Thursday asked the state's court of judicial discipline to suspend Joy on an interim basis, either with or without pay.
Impeachment: Though rare, it's not unheard of, for impeachment proceedings to be started against judges in Pennsylvania.
Former state Supreme Court justice Rolf Larsen was impeached in 1994, the first judge removed from the bench through the process since 1811.
More recently, legislators started impeachment proceedings against former Lancaster County district judge Kelly Ballentine in June for dismissing her own traffic tickets and failing to file tax returns.
She was ultimately removed from the bench by the Court of Judicial Discipline in early August, according to Lancaster Newspapers reports.
In order for impeachment proceedings to start, the House of Representatives must pass a resolution to ask the House Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into a judge facing impeachment, said Tom Dymek, the committee's executive director.
From there, the committee gathers evidence and makes a recommendation to the House, which must vote to send the matter to the Senate for a trial. There, a two-thirds majority must approve impeachment, he said.
"Impeachment is a long and expensive process," Dymek said. "It's not a small undertaking."
Other means: Impeachment isn't the only means of removing a judge from office.
The court of judicial discipline and the state Supreme Court can remove district judges for disciplinary reasons, said James Koval, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
If a judge were convicted of certain crimes, such as official oppression, he or she would automatically be removed, Dymek said.
Phillips-Hill said it's important for elected officials such as judges to be held to a higher standard and that when allegations are made against one, some people may lose faith in government and the system of justice.
"That's why it's really important to let the judicial process work," she said.
Though impeachment proceedings against Joy aren't in the works now, Dymek said the committee is keeping tabs on the case in the event proceedings are initiated.
"That is a case that we're watching," he said.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.