New case added to complaint against Judge who blames outbursts in court on brain injury

Investigators

HARRISBURG, Pa, (WHTM)- It has been almost 6 months since the Judicial Conduct Board filed charges against Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Placey. The complaint, filed on June 9, accuses Judge Placey of outbursts in the courtroom and violating the state constitution. In October, another case was added to complain against him.

According to court paperwork, Judge Placey was presiding over a hearing on a petition for protection from abuse when he had an exchange with an attorney who attempted to approach the witness stand. According to the complaint, Judge Placey “quickly stood up taking a position close” to the attorney.

The is part of the exchange detailed in the complaint:

Judge Placey: Do not walk towards the witness.

Attorney: Oh, I’m sorry.

Judge Placey: You will be out of this courtroom in a heartbeat. Can you hear me now?

According to court paperwork, an audio recording of the proceeding “established that at times during the exchange Judge Placey’s voice was excessively loud and his tone was angry”. Judge Placey left the courtroom immediately after the exchange and then returned 4 minutes later and the hearing proceeded.

In his previous response to the complaint filed by the Judicial Conduct Board Placey admitted to the charges filed against him saying in 2018 he recognized a change in his impulsive behavioral control and he believes it may be linked to concussions he suffered playing college football.

Placey says in 2019 he sought treatment and is also enrolled in a NCAA concussion monitoring program.

Some are asking why Judge Placey remains on the bench if he has a brain injury.

The abc27 Investigators have learned there are procedures in place to suspend a judge before a trial takes place. The Judicial Conduct Board can request the Court of Judicial Discipline suspend a judge. The Judicial Conduct Board did not make that request in Placey’s case.

The Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas President Judge could also take action. abc27 reached out to the Administrative Office of Pa. Courts (AOPC) to see if President Judge Edward Guido had any concerns.

An AOPC spokesperson said, “The president judge does not have any concerns about Judge Placey, who continues to serve on the bench with a full caseload.”

“It is absolutely essential that the public have confidence in the abilities and of the temperament of judges who are deciding cases,” said Michael Dimino.

Dimino is a professor of law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School.

“It is certainly understandable that some people would think twice about the wisdom of having a judge on the bench who has admitted, and indeed his defense is, that he has suffered a brain injury. He is claiming that he can continue to do the job and is receiving treatment and the treatment is effective. Other people may disagree with that but that is why we have the process,” said Dimino.

Placey’s attorney did not return several requests for a comment.

Placey’s case is still in the pre-trial stage. If the Court of Judicial Discipline determines there was misconduct, Placey could face reprimand, fine, suspension, or removal from the bench.

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