HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)- The Judicial Conduct Board has filed charges against Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas A. Placey.
According to the complaint, filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline, Placey has been charged with violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
According to the complaint, Judge Placey has failed to “conduct himself in a patient, dignified , courteous manner” and has also failed to ensure people in his court room “the right to be heard”.
The complaint lays out an interaction between Judge Placey and Attorney Corey Fahnestock in August 2019. According to the complaint, Fahnestock declined to “cover” a criminal proceeding because he was unfamiliar with the case. After being informed of Fahnestock’s decision Placey allegedly took the attorney into a small conference room in the Cumberland County Courthouse, which was being used by a Cumberland County Magisterial District Judge as a courtroom, and order everyone out of the room. After the door was closed, Judge Placey told the attorney that “when he tells the attorney to go somewhere, the attorney is required to do so”. According to the complaint, Judge Placey’s voice was loud enough to be heard by people outside the room.
In September 2019, the ABC27 investigators launched an investigation into Judge Placey and confirmed several people were interviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board regarding Judge Placey’s conduct in the courtroom. Two of the cases featured in the abc27 investigation were also mentioned in the criminal complaint filed by the Judicial Conduct Board.
One of the cases involved a sentencing hearing where Judge Placey yelled at an assistant district attorney telling her to get out of his courtroom saying, “Out. Now. Do you not listen? What is the problem with your hearing today?”.
The other involved a hearing in a civil case related to a divorce proceeding. In September 2019, Tony Samento shared with the abc27 Investigators what he says he experienced in Placey’s courtroom while testifying on the stand in that case.
“There are no words to describe the way he screamed at me. It is like a madman going totally insane,” Samento said. “I look up and he’s literally coming over the bench. Just screaming at the top of his lungs.”
Samento told abc27 he feels justice is being served with the charges and is asking for more action.
“I think every case that man has ever ruled on should be reviewed. Every single one of them because if he did it to me, he did it to countless other people and I’m not just talking as a judge, even when he was back as a magistrate,” said Samento.
Samento was able to appeal his civil case to the Superior Court which agreed his ” due process rights were violated” and Judge Placey was stripped from the case. The superior court also said Placey’s actions were “intemperate” and raise an appearance of bias.
Samento says not everyone has the money to appeal their cases and he expressed concern about the the criminal cases Judge Placey handled as well.
“Here’s my question. How many people are sitting in jail right now because of decision he made out of his anger that had nothing to do with justice, it had to do with his temper tantrum, his personality, his opinion towards that individual, nothing to with facts and nothing to do with truth or justice. All it had to do with was him being angry,” said Samento.
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, there is no plan of action to review Placey’s cases and he will remain on the bench.
His case will be heard in front of the Court of Judicial Discipline. Trials are open to the public.
Placey has 30 days to respond to the charges.
If the charges are proven, Judge Placey could face possible sanctions including suspension, fine or removal from office.
Judge Placey and his Attorney Heidi F. Eakin have not responded to requests for comment.
According to Cumberland County’s official website, Judge Placey has served a common pleas judge since 2012. Placey also served as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed member of the Judicial Conduct Board.