Friday, March 13, 2009

Judge Michael Toole's Financial Relationships In Question

Veteran reporter Dave Janoski who has been at the forefront reporting on the Luzerne County Judicial probe reveals in an article that Judge Michael Toole did not divulge financial relationships in at least two cases involving a person listed on a financial form as a source of "direct or indirect income".

Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Toole presided over two cases that yielded at least $2 million for the clients of a local attorney with whom he had a financial relationship, public documents show.

Toole listed the Law Office of John D. Nardone as a “direct or indirect source of income” on financial disclosure forms covering 2004 and 2005 that he filed with the state Supreme Court. The forms do not require judges to state the nature of the income or the amount.

Nardone was a plaintiff’s attorney in two cases handled by Toole in 2005. One ended with a settlement of $2 million for Nardone’s client in 2006 before trial, court documents show. The other was settled in 2005, but details of the settlement were not available. Nothing in the court records available in the county Prothonotary’s Office indicates that the financial relationship between Nardone and Toole was revealed to opposing counsel. An attorney in the case that settled for $2 million said he was unaware of the relationship, but declined further comment.

Toole declined comment on the article when approached in his courtroom Thursday morning. He was not in the courthouse Thursday afternoon to answer questions about the Nardone cases. A message left with his tipstaff drew no response. No one answered the door at Toole’s Wilkes-Barre home Thursday afternoon.

Nardone did not return three detailed phone messages left at his Kingston office and Kingston Township home.

Pennsylvania’s court rules require a judge to recuse himself from cases in which he believes he cannot be impartial. But the rules don’t contain an explicit requirement that judges disclose relationships with attorneys.


As I previously reported Judicial Canon No. 7 prevents judges from making contributions to political parties. In addition the Guidelines For Ethical Conduct In Judicial Campaigns reinforces this part.

Canon 7. Judges should refrain from political activity inappropriate to their judicial office.

(1) A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office should not:

(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate


I found interesting donations from Judge Michael Toole to the Luzerne County Democratic Party and a candidate from 2003.

Recipient Date Amount
Luzerne County Democratic Committee
Wyoming, PA 18644 10/20/2003 $3,050.00
Description: Contribution and ticket for rally
Filer/Payer: Toole, Michael for Judge Committee
Report: 2003 Cycle 5

Recipient Date Amount
Luzerne County Democratic Committee
Wyoming , PA 18644 5/6/2003 $100.00
Description: Tickets for Rally
Filer/Payer: Toole, Michael for Judge Committee
Report: 2003 Cycle 3
Go to Top Go to Bottom

67 Expenditure Details 67
Recipient Date Amount
Luzerne County Young Democrats
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702 4/23/2003 $20.00
Description: Ticket for Rally
Filer/Payer: Toole, Michael for Judge Committee
Report: 2003 Cycle 2
Go to Top Go to Bottom

68 Expenditure Details 68
Recipient Date Amount
Luzerne County Young Democrats
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702 9/23/2003 $350.00
Description: Tickets for rally
Filer/Payer: Toole, Michael for Judge Committee
Report: 2003 Cycle 5

Recipient Date Amount
TOOLE FOR JUDGE COMMITTEE
WILKES-BARRE, PA 18702 12/28/2003 $3,262.73
Description: CONTRIBUTION TO TOOLE FOR JUDGE CONTRIBUTION.
Filer/Payer: TOOLE, PATRICK JUDGE RETENTION COM


I disagree with one conclusion in Janoski's article- "But the rules don’t contain an explicit requirement that judges disclose relationships with attorneys."

Canon 5. Judges should regulate their extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with their judicial duties
C. Financial activities.

(1) Judges should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, exploit their judicial position, or involve them in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which they serve.

Canon 2. Judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities.

A. Judges should respect and comply with the law and should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

B. Judges should not allow their family, social, or other relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment. They should not lend the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of others; nor should they convey or knowingly permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. Judges should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.

Official Note

Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. Judges must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. They must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. They must therefore accept restrictions on their conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.

1 comment:

just ed said...

And another one gone another one bites the dust hay were gonna get you too