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York County judge accused of lewd comments, inappropriate behavior

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York County Magisterial District Judge John H. Fishel.

York County Magisterial District Judge John H. Fishel has been accused of several instances of sexual comments and inappropriate actions, according to charges filed Monday by the state Judicial Conduct Board.

The board's charges detail 10 instances dating back to at least October 2018 where the judge violated the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges and the state Constitution, according to the charging documents.

Fishel, who has held the position since July 2009, "permitted his court staff to participate in inappropriate communication," the charges allege.

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Among other instances cited in the charges, sometime after October 2018, Fishel told his staff that he had rubbed his penis on the brim of a coffee mug as a joke.

In other instances cited in the charging documents, Fishel discussed topics such as anal sex and circumcision with court staff and others. He also discussed preferences for a "big ass" with staff, the charges allege.

Fishel sat on the lap of a court staff member in 2018.

Additionally, he was accused of causing "distress to a staff member who did not want to be touched by behaving as though he was going to touch her" sometime between late 2014 and October 2019. 

Fishel is specifically charged with four counts of violation of canon, which include a failure to act in a way that promotes confidence in the judiciary and a requirement to act "patient, dignified, and courteous" in front of court staff, among other entities.

Additionally, he is charged with four counts of violating Article V., subsection 17(b) of the state Constitution.

All four counts were argued to be justified by the board, citing language in the constitution that states judges "shall not engage in any activity prohibited by law and shall not violate any canon of legal or judicial ethics prescribed by the Supreme Court."

In a statement Monday, Fishel  said he "couldn't be more embarrassed and apologetic for the inappropriate behavior between the staff and myself."

"I'll continue to do what is needed of me to ensure everyone the circumstances in the complaint have been resolved," he wrote. "Throughout the years, I have encountered people who made mistakes. I can only hope and pray the people in our community trust and have faith that I have corrected mine."

The charges come after the York County District Court Administrator's Office in October 2019 conducted an investigation in response to a Non-Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint.

Judge Fishel self-reported "most, if not all" of the allegations included in the complaint one month after being notified of the investigation, the charges state.

The Judicial Conduct Board will now present the case to support the charges before the state Court of Judicial Discipline.

The hearing date has not been announced, and it is not yet clear what could happen to Fishel if he were to be found guilty.

Stacey Witalec, spokesperson for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking further information.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.