A Philadelphia judge on Monday railed in court against District Attorney Larry Krasner, saying that the district attorney’s appeal of a Superior Court ruling would delay justice, cost taxpayers, and keep defendants in custody for months until the state Supreme Court decides whether to hear the appeal.
Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio was frustrated that the District Attorney’s Office decided to appeal a unanimous decision last month by a three-judge panel of Superior Court, which denied Krasner’s request to have DiClaudio disqualified from hearing criminal cases because the judge’s girlfriend, a former city prosecutor, had filed a racial-discrimination complaint against the District Attorney’s Office.
In its opinion, the panel concluded that “it belies reason to suggest that Judge DiClaudio would favor a criminal defendant, or disfavor an individual assistant district attorney ... based solely on [his girlfriend’s] filing of the racial discrimination charge.”
DiClaudio on Monday was ready to preside over nonjury trials. But Assistant District Attorney Eli Klein said his office was asking for jury trials and was appealing the Superior Court’s decision. When DiClaudio pressed Klein on whether those “marching orders” had come from Krasner, Klein said yes.
DiClaudio granted the prosecutor’s requests, meaning the cases will be transferred to later dates before other judges who sit in jury trial rooms, unlike DiClaudio’s nonjury courtroom.
DiClaudio ordered Klein to call supervisors from his office to the courtroom. When Paul George, assistant supervisor of the district attorney’s Law Division, and Patricia McKinney, the office’s assistant supervisor of major trials, appeared, DiClaudio noted that the District Attorney’s Office has not alleged in any particular case that he has been unfair.
He warned the supervisors not to “judge-shop” by trying the cases before another judge in a nonjury trial room. And if the District Attorney’s Office withdraws prosecution in a case because it doesn’t have the resources to try that many cases as jury trials, which typically take more time than nonjury trials and incur juror-related expenses, “I will be reporting this to the Disciplinary Board” of the state Supreme Court, DiClaudio said.
George and McKinney, who previously had been partners in a criminal defense firm, declined to comment after the hearing.