Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Philadelphia judge ousted for old conviction

Martha Neil reports in a May 6 article on about Deborah Griffin, a Philadelphia municipal judge, who has been removed from office because of an old criminal conviction.

Read the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion here.

When she applied for admission to the Pennsylvania bar in 1988, Griffin failed to disclose that she'd pled guilty two counts of a federal indictment charging her with using a false social security number in a number of credit card applications and on an employment application. She did no jail time as a result of these convictions, but she did receive probation and she was ordered to pay restitution. Griffin's failure to disclose this conviction led to her being suspended from the practice of law in 1994 (Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Griffin, 535 Pa. 590).

Griffin was subsequently reinstated to the bar and then, in 2001, elected to the bench. She was retained for a second six year term in a November 2007 municipal election.

In the linked opinion, Pennsylvania's highest court removed Judge Griffin from the bench because it found her 1984 conviction to be for an "infamous crime" under Article II, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides, "No person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury or other infamous crime, shall be eligible to the General Assembly, or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in this Commonwealth."

The current article and a March 5 post by Debra Cassens Weiss report that Griffin claimed that she'd not disclosed her conviction in her original bar application because she thought her "record had been expunged."

After her law license was suspended, though, she presumably knew that this was not the case. Nor do I know whether the convictions to which Griffin pled guilty could have been expunged or, if so, under what circumstances. Nothing in the stories, or in the published court opinion, or in the AP account of the matter indicates whether Griffin ever sought a pardon.

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