The state Supreme Court took a needed step to restore public confidence in the city’s judiciary by suspending Philadelphia Judge Thomas M. Nocella, who is accused of lying to get himself elected last year, the Philadelphia Inquirer says in an editorial. Nocella’s permanent ouster from the bench will be warranted if a disciplinary court concurs with the charges. In the meantime, he couldn’t easily continue to handle his Family Court duties as if nothing had happened.
By pulling Nocella off the bench with its order last week – even though he continues to draw his $165,000 annual pay plus benefits – the high court minimized the risk that litigants who faced Nocella would question his integrity. The judge’s attorney said Nocella would have welcomed a chance to contest his suspension. By acting swiftly, though, the Supreme Court sent a powerful signal that upholding the judiciary’s credibility has to be the top priority. The Inquirer reported after last year’s election that Nocella had more than $1 million in debts and also was embroiled in a lawsuit accusing him of fraud in the sale of a $507,500 property.