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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Letter For Bill Blake

                                                                                                April 23, 2015
                                                                                                Salvatore Tornabene
                                                                                                Easton, PA  18045

Attorney William Blake
Bethlehem Pa  18020

Dear Attorney Blake,

                It is my understanding you are an official ballot candidate for the vacancy of Magisterial District Judge at District Court 03-2-03 in Bethlehem Township.  As a concerned citizen and resident of Bethlehem Township, I am writing on behalf of myself and a number of other Bethlehem Township resident voters to inquire whether you have obtained a Formal Opinion from the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in regard to your eligibility to actually serve as the District Judge in Bethlehem Township if you were to be elected.

                My concern is I am aware that your brother, Sgt. Rick Blake is a high ranking supervising officer in the Bethlehem Township Police Department, and your wife, Assistant District Attorney Kristine Blake is a practicing prosecutor in Northampton County and both of these relationships present a conflict of interest.  Has the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges rendered an opinion informing you that you can preside over any and all Bethlehem Township Police Department criminal cases?  It is my understanding that District Court 03-2-03 will only be covering Bethlehem Township Police Department matters starting January 1, 2016.  If the relationship with your brother being a sergeant supervising officer conflicts with your ability to oversee and make judicial decisions in a non-bias manner how will you even be able to preside over any criminal matters that would come before you if elected as District Judge? Additionally, your wife is a member of the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office and is responsible for prosecuting cases that will come before you if elected as District Judge, how is this not another conflict regarding your ability to preside as District Judge? Is there a formal opinion from the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in regard to these conflicts of interest?

                If you have not officially requested a Formal Opinion in regards to your eligibility to actually serve as the District Judge in Bethlehem Township, I ask you do so immediately. These conflicts pose a great concern to me and other voters of Bethlehem Township and the residents of the community where we live. As a judicial candidate, I believe you have an obligation to get a formal opinion. The voters should be asked to consider only those candidates who are free of any conflicts of interest or appearance of conflicts of interest in the primary and general election, to preserve the sanctity of the criminal justice system. 


                                                                                                                Salvatore Tornabene,
                                                                                                                Concerned Bethlehem Twp. Citizen
Cc: Morning Call, Express Times,

     Bernard OHare


Anonymous said...

OK Sal did not write this letter. Pat wrote it and asked him to sign it. I know he did not write this letter.

Anonymous said...

" ... in regard to ..."

Whomever wrote it should tighten their grammar a bit.

Lighthouse said...

While I think that both Blake and Broscius would bring different, yet valuable, perspectives to the post and would make fine M.D. judges, I can't help but think of this letter as a bit of a red herring.

I just browsed through the code of judicial conduct ( http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/207/chapter33/chap33toc.html ). I assume the writer is referring to Rules 2.4 (b), 2.7, and 2.11. For the work the Magisterial District level actually does, which would deal with the preliminary-level process, and not presiding over a jury trial I do not see the issues raised as creating in and of themselves a conflict, or perceived conflict. Any felonies his brother or wife would be involved in, are resolved ultimately at a later stage. The issues the DM does have final judgement on are summary offenses, etc.

Judge Barner was the former Police Chief of BT. One could have used your same red herring of potential bias, and it would have been baseless, as he has served honorably in his position.

If Blake were running for Common Pleas, I think this would be a valid issue (more so because of his wife). I do not see the mere fact that his brother is a Sgt, any more of an issue than a former officer chief (or other former police officers) serving as DMs.

Anonymous said...

Well stated Lighthouse.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, I think a police chief running for MDJ in the district he serves would be a problem. I am concerned that there is an inherent conflict in ruling on any case broght by his brother, as well as anyone under his brother's supervision. I am concerned that he would be disqualified from heqaring all felonies, in which the DA does send a prosecutor. His wife is conflicted, and that would apply to everyone in the DA's office.

If I am wriong, that's a good thing bc I think Bill is a great guy. But I'd like to see an advisory opinion from somewhere if that is possible.