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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Joe Paterno May Not Vote to Retain Judge Bernard McGinley, But I Will

I don't think PSU's Joe Paterno is too crazy about Bernard McGinley as a Commonwealth Court judge. Baseball fans might not like him much, either. But I'll be voting to retain this Democrat on election day.

Who is Barney McGinley?

The League of Women Voters gives us some biographical information. A Pittsburgh native, Judge McGinley got a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970. After that, he served in the reserves and was an assistant DA for four years. He also spent six years as a judge before being elected to the Commonwealth Court in 1988. He has been married to the same woman since 1973, and has never personally been involved in litigation. If retained, he will reach mandatory retirement age in 2016.

McGinley appears to be part of the Pittsburgh aristocracy. He is related to the Pittsburgh Steelers owners. He and his family even participate in debutante balls.

McGinley's Anti-Sports Rulings

Despite his strong ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers, McGinley has ruled against Pennsylvania's most revered sports hero - Coach Joe Paterno. McGinley is the jurist who ordered Penn State officials to disclose Papa Joe's salary. “Access to this information allows the public to meaningfully evaluate the wisdom and appropriateness of these state appropriations.” That decision has been appealed to the state high court.

Actually, McGinley's Penn State decision is designed to make state funded organizations more open and accountable to the public. It's the right call.

But he has another ruling that's just bizarre. It's a decision against baseball, and that's a little harder to forgive. Get a load of the facts of this case.

First, a family buys a house no more than twenty feet from the first base line of a baseball diamond. Then they decide to cut down trees along their property line, which acted as a natural barrier to keep baseballs in the park and out of their yard. Stunned by baseballs landing in their yard, this family sues to stop people from playing ball in the park.

Amazingly, they win. And when Eldred Borough appeals the decision, Judge McGinley rules against them! I believe this ruling is an unreasonable interpretation of a nuisance, and gives far too much deference to a family that should have foreseen that living in a home only twenty feet from a baseball diamond is going to present problems. I don't think Judge McGinley will get too many votes in Eldred, where people were quite irritated by a ruling that hurt baseball players of all ages.

That was just a bad call.

McGinley's Other Opinions are More Reasonable

Once you get McGinley away from the baseball diamond, his 210 reported online rulings are quite sound. In a well-reasoned decision, he struck down a "zero tolerance policy" that would have resulted in the expulsion of a straight "A" student caught with a small pen knife. He sustained an attorney's fee award against high power legal eagle John Karoly , in a dispute John had with South Whitehall Township. He wisely dissented from a ruling awarding $20,000 to a police officer who found that money in a bag during a routine traffic stop. I can't help feeling that a dirty cop will have all kinds of excuses to "find" money. McGinley also supported a strict reading of zoning law for residents who objected to a cell tower.


So long as you keep Judge McGinley away from anything to do with sports, he's a very clear and fair-minded judge. Lawyers who practice before him seem to like him. The Pa. bar makes this observation, "He treats lawyers fairly and courteously and is held in the highest regard for his legal knowledge and analytical abilities." I'll be voting to retain him, but I don't think he can count on too many votes in Eldred Borough.


Anonymous said...

thumbs down for this one two. thumbs down for all!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe you mean to say "thumbs down for this one, too." It's hard to take that silly argument seriously when what you do is just guarantee the governor a treasure trove of new political appointments. It's even harder when you use bad grammar. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

oh, I made an error grammar! You win that one. Now what about the middle of this country? Bernie are you with us or aginst us?

Your support for these judges says your against us! "The Middle Class of this Country" that is!

Blah Society said...

Anon -

Make an argument or quit being a douche.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's election season again. Anon 5:23, You did not answer my argument. If voters reject all 67 judges up for retention, as you suggest, you just give Rendell the opportunity to make 67 political appointments. That's no way to restore the middle class. Incidentally, it's "you're against us", not "your against us." Like I said, it's hard to take you seriously when you use such lousy grammar. Sorry.

Blah Society said...

Should Paterno's salary become public information?

On one hand, he does work for a state university and if his salary proves to be high, questions could arise concerning tuition costs, among other "expenses" (although, it's not like they haven't before.)

By the way, has it been made public even though there is an appeal?

But on the other hand, he's been doing the job for so long. After so many years with one company, or school in this case, a higher salary than others should be expected. Joe doesn't seem too politically involved overall and is mainly concerned about his football team, so I can see why he's upset. But both arguments in this case are resonable.

McGinley doesn't seem like a terrible judge. Although, I'm not too sure about that ruling in favor of the Chase's complaint.

The Borough tried to work with the Chases. How couldn't they have known, after living in that house for several years, that baseballs wouldn't have been hit into their yard if they cut down the "natural barrier?" Duh!

I'd like some more information on this judge and maybe some other rulings worthy of some notice. Got anything else?

Bernie O'Hare said...

AJ, I don't believe his salary, or the salary of other PSU officials, has been made public. Oral argument was a few months ago before the state supreme court, so a decision is probably working its way thru the pipeline.

McGinley seems like a decent guy, and I joke he should not decide sports cases. I do think he was way off on that baseball decision.

If you want to read more of huis opinions, go here, choose "author", type in McGinley and click search. All his online opinions will come up.

Chris said...

Paterno's salary should most definitely be made public. His salary, correct me if somehow I am wrong, is paid by the taxpayers. It is his choice to coach for a PUBLIC University. I do not have a choice to pay taxes (without severe penalty under the law). If I am going to be compelled under the law to fund certain institutions, I want and deserve to know how that money is appropriately (or inappropriately) allocated. If Joe doesn’t want his salary known he can go coach for Notre Dame. McGinley was spot on with his ruling.

Anonymous said...

how about the revenue the football team brings to PSU? JoPa probably makes one percent of it in salary but who cares? should be none of our business anyway. larry@kisslinger.com