Pa. justices won raise for upholding slots law, lawsuit claims

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HARRISBURG -- The League of Women Voters sued Pennsylvania's former chief justice yesterday, alleging that the Supreme Court upheld the state's slot machine gambling law in exchange for approval of a judicial pay raise.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Harrisburg, names former Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy and cites allegations and information provided by unnamed legislators. It says Justice Cappy used secret meetings with legislators to negotiate the ruling on the slots law and pay raises for more than 1,000 judges, including himself and six other Supreme Court justices.

The 17-page lawsuit cites an allegation by an unnamed senator, although it does not say how the senator knows about the alleged deal.

The lawsuit claims Justice Cappy told legislators of one particular caucus during a meeting that "he needed the pay raise to secure the votes of Republican justices" on cases important to them.

Justice Cappy, who left the bench Jan. 6, did not immediately respond to a message left at his Pittsburgh law office yesterday. Legislative officials also did not respond to requests for comment.

If true, the alleged deal would represent a violation of the league's constitutional right to due process, because the league was one of the groups that filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's 2004 law that legalized slot machines.

The state Supreme Court largely ruled against the league's lawsuit in June 2005, although it struck down three small provisions in the sprawling law. Two weeks later, the Legislature approved substantial pay raises for judges, legislators and some executive branch officials.


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