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July 23, 2002

Chancellor to D.A.: Follow Formal Process on Judicial Criticism

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Allan H. Gordon has sent the following letter to Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham:

July 22, 2002

Honorable Lynne Abraham, District Attorney
1421 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Dear District Attorney Abraham:

As a former Judge, I am sure you understand that Judge Lisa Rau of the Court of Common Pleas is prohibited from commenting directly on your recent and repeated criticisms. As you know, Canon 3 (6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct states: "A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in any court, and should require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his direction and control. This subsection does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court."

In speaking out against Judge Rau you have recently stated, unequivocally, that you "believe in the system" and that everyone has "a presumption of innocence." If that is the case, may I respectfully suggest that you embrace the system, file any necessary appeals and if you feel warranted, take your complaints to the appropriate judicial disciplinary authority. In the interim, in the interest of fairness, further public outcries are inappropriate. Certainly, respect for the system demands nothing less than that.

Neither the justice system generally, nor the judiciary particularly are well served by repeated efforts to "embarrass" judges publicly. There is a process for complaining about the actions of a judge and seeking to have the situation remedied if, in fact, such a remedy is warranted. As officers of the Court, we would do well to follow that process. Indeed, our colleagues and our fellow citizens have every reason to expect nothing less of us.

Allan H. Gordon

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