Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Zappala to Report Judge for Courtroom Statements Jurist Suggested $1 Fine for Each Touch

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Zappala to Report Judge for Courtroom Statements Jurist Suggested $1 Fine for Each Touch

Article excerpt

The Allegheny County District Attorney's office said it will report the conduct of a senior judge after he suggested during a hearing last week that a man be fined $1 for each time he inappropriately touched his victim.

Common Pleas Senior Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ended up imposing no fine on the defendant but ordered him to serve 90 days of probation and perform 20 hours of community service.

Still, his behavior was enough to prompt District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., who made drastic changes to how his office handles domestic violence and similar cases, to take action.

"In effectuating these changes, we dealt with the same type of conduct then as is being exhibited by this particular jurist now," spokesman Mike Manko said. "Such conduct has no place in our system, and the district attorney will bring it to the attention of the appropriate persons and, if necessary, the Judicial Conduct Board."

Judge Nauhaus has come under scrutiny from the appellate courts for some of his actions on the bench. After former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was convicted in a corruption case, he made her have her photo taken wearing handcuffs and he wanted her to send the picture with a handwritten apology to every judge in the state. The appellate court said the notes were OK but the photo was too much.

He also was at the center of a dispute involving former Allegheny County Councilman Charles P. McCullough, whose trial he presided over. Mr. McCullough accused Judge Nauhaus of improperly urging him to have a nonjury trial. The judge found Mr. McCullough guilty of 10 of 24 counts against him.That case is on appeal.

On April 26, Judge Nauhaus was presiding over summary appeals when an 18-year-old appeared before him challenging a $300 fine he'd received for a harassment conviction. The underlying conduct, according to assistant district attorney Jeff Tisak, was inappropriate sexual touching over a period of time while the defendant and victim were in middle and high school.

The defendant, whose name is being withheld because he was a juvenile at the time of the conduct, is involved with the juvenile dependency system and was represented at the hearing by Dawn Walters, an attorney from KidsVoice. …

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