Bench press: Police must handle judicial complaints properly
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We're watching you.
That's what bullies say when they're trying to control someone else's behavior, and that's what Pittsburgh police are threatening against magisterial district justices. The police believe some district justices are guilty of unprofessional conduct on the bench, releasing accused criminals on bonds that are too low or dismissing charges when police believe they've provided sufficient evidence to sustain them.
Those are serious claims that demand serious attention, but a plan by police to keep a log of magisterial misdeeds and then inform Common Pleas Court President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel is the wrong approach.
There is nothing new in police officers complaining when rulings don't go the way they'd like. Defendants and defense attorneys do the same thing. If that's what this is really about, the officers' recourse is at the ballot box. Police, through their union, can withhold endorsement from justices seeking re-election and campaign against them.
If police have information that district justices truly are failing to properly perform their duties -- and some very well may -- the public will be well-served if they file complaints with the state's Judicial Conduct Board.
Taking their allegations to Judge McDaniel is not going to solve the problem.
First Published July 8, 2012 12:00 am