High court upholds Dawn Segal's removal as a judge

High court upholds Dawn Segal's removal as a judge

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In a 5-1 decision issued Nov. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that permanently bars Dawn A. Segal from holding judicial office.

Segal, an open lesbian, served as a municipal-court judge in Philadelphia for about six years until she was suspended without pay last year due to improper conversations with another judge.

The state Supreme Court justices who ruled against Segal are Max Baer, Sallie U. Mundy, Thomas G. Saylor, Debra M. Todd and David N. Wecht. The majority's 23-page opinion states that Segal's actions were "an affront to the administration of justice and diminish confidence in the judiciary at large."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Christine Donahue recommended that the case be remanded to the Court of Judicial Discipline for further review to ensure consistent discipline for problematic judges.

Justice Kevin M. Dougherty, a Democrat from Philadelphia, didn't participate.

In court papers, Segal acknowledged engaging in improper conversations with Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. between 2011-12 but said none of the conversations influenced her judicial rulings.

Last year, the Court of Judicial Discipline ordered Segal's permanent removal, after holding a sanctions hearing, during which Segal gave an impassioned plea for her return to the bench. In May, oral arguments were held in Harrisburg before the state Supreme Court. The arguments focused on whether the Court of Judicial Discipline was consistent in its approach to disciplining problematic judges.

Segal argued that many Pennsylvania judges engaged in more egregious behavior than hers yet only received reprimands or brief suspensions. However, the state Supreme Court ultimately rejected that argument, emphasizing the gravity of Segal's misconduct.

The FBI wiretapped Segal's conversations with Waters as part of a larger investigation of judicial corruption in Philadelphia.

Waters was convicted of fraud and spent almost two years in federal prison. He was released in November 2016, according to prison records. Segal isn't accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Neither side had a comment for this story. 

 


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