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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Posted 9:04 PM by

Cappy: High court collusion claims 'preposterous'

Former state Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cappy calls allegation that he traded the slots law for judicial pay raises 'preposterous.'Slotsylvania former chief justice Ralph Cappy plans to vigorously defend himself from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters, telling the Associated Press its allegation that he negotiated a deal to exchange judicial raises for state Supreme Court approval of a 2004 law legalizing slot machines is "preposterous."

The lawsuit filed Monday by the League reiterates many of the assertion raised in a 2006 suit filed by the League and Common Cause, alleging the high court played tit-for-tat with lawmakers, bartering favorable rulings for more funding and pay hikes.

That case was chucked out by a federal judge, who erroneously claimed the issue was made moot when the pay raises passed in 2005 were rescinded after a public outcry. However, the Supreme Court later ruled that the while the Legislature had the power to raise judicial salaries, it did not have the power to lower them. So, the state judges got their pay raises after all.

The League's new suit cites comments from an anonymous state senator as proof that the one or more justices traded or used as leverage a favorable ruling in the previous lawsuit as part of secret negotiations between Cappy and legislative leaders.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said in a statement that the League's new suit "slanders the entire Supreme Court of Pennsylvania with baseless and irresponsible charges." House Republican leader, Sam Smith of Jefferson County, said the league "should be ashamed to be involved in this kind of speculation and abuse of process."

The evidence may be flimsy, but I have no doubt it happened.

Cappy was way too involved with the pay raise issue, openly admitted to closed door discussions with top lawmakers, wrote opinion pieces for newspapers in favor of it and eventual had to recuse himself from the judicial pay raise case.

Why else do you think the Supremes let stand the slots law, whose passage clearly violated the state Constitutional provision requiring a public comment period and three approvals on the floor of the House?

The 145-page slots bill was inserted into an unrelated two paragraph measure requiring background checks for harness racing employees which had already been approved twice by the House. It was then brought to the floor late at night, without any debate on the eve of a July 4 holiday recess.

That's the main reason why I now call this state Slotsylvania, because we have the best justice and laws that lobbying money can buy.

But don't take my word for it. To read the lawsuit for yourself in pdf format, click here.

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