Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mccaffery Lowers Risk to Pension with His Resignation from Court Subheady Heady Heady Heady Heady Heady

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mccaffery Lowers Risk to Pension with His Resignation from Court Subheady Heady Heady Heady Heady Heady

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - In stepping down from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week, former Justice Seamus McCaffery reduced the risk that investigations into his conduct could threaten his sizable state pension.

The Judicial Conduct Board on Monday cited Mr. McCaffery's decision to leave the high court and his promise not to serve again as a Pennsylvania judge in dropping its investigations into allegations that the justice had exchanged sexually explicit emails and attempted to blackmail a fellow Supreme Court justice.

Had those inquiries led to proceedings in which Mr. McCaffery were removed from office, his retirement benefits could have been at risk.

"It was clear to me he did it to keep his pension," said Samuel Stretton, a West Chester attorney who has represented jurists facing allegations. "I've done that in the past with other judges."

Bruce Ledewitz, an expert in the state Constitution at the Duquesne University School of Law, said Mr. McCaffery's state retirement benefits could have been at risk before his action Monday.

"It alleviates that risk almost altogether," Mr. Ledewitz said, noting that the constitutional conditions for pension forfeiture - through impeachment or proceedings before the Court of Judicial Discipline - no longer apply. "By resigning [Monday] he precludes either one."

Mr. McCaffery's attorney, William Winning, declined to comment. His spokesman, Frank Keel, responded through an email that said only: "Nonsense."

The State Employees' Retirement System does not estimate the size of pension payments for members who have not begun collecting, and the system said - in response to a request under the Right-to-Know Law - that Mr. McCaffery has not filed an application for a retirement benefit.

But it released information for his three highest-paying years of service - $189,635 in 2011, $195,378 in 2012 and $199,614 in 2013 - the average of which would be used to calculate his benefit for his slightly more than 20 years of service as a judge. …

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