Judge claiming brain injury to remain on bench while case against him plays out in court

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Placey will remain on the bench even though he claims to suffer a possible brain injury.

Last month the Judicial Conduct Board filed a complaint accusing Judge Placey of violating due process rights and screaming outbursts in the courtroom. In his response, Placey admitted to the charges and blamed his outbursts in the courtroom on head injuries he sustained while playing college sports.

According to court paperwork, in 2017 Judge Placey received “notices from the NCAA of the potential for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), believed to be linked to concussions he had suffered playing college sports”. Placey says he shared this information with his physician and claims he recognized a change in his impulsive behavioral control in late 2018 and later sought treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, CTE is brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas which can cause difficulties with thinking and emotions. CTE can only be diagnosed during an autopsy.

The abc27 investigators confirmed with Johns Hopkins University that Judge Thomas Placey played football at the university in 1981 and 1982 as defensive tackle.

Although Judge Placey has admitted to the charges filed against him the Court of Judicial Discipline will determine if there was any misconduct.

“There have been cases that a mental or physical disability has resulted in a judge’s career on the bench ending,” said Richard Long.

Long is chief counsel for the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. Long would not comment specifically on Placey’s case but he did discuss how a disability may affect a case.

“In the event a judge raises an issue concerning a physical or mental disability that can impact the case. There are issues that can be looked at in regards to treatment, if treatment is appropriate, if treatment is being pursued and what does the future look like for the judge as to their ability to discharge their judicial duties. Each case is different and has their own facts and circumstances,” said Long.

Placey’s case will likely go to trial in front of the Court of Judicial Discipline in the fall. If the court determines there was misconduct Placey could face reprimand, fine, suspension, or removal from the bench.

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