Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lyris Younge, who had been fighting a complaint charging her with 10 counts of judicial misconduct over 18 months in Family Court, has admitted to the allegations in a filing with the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline.
With that admission, made public late Tuesday, Younge, 53, will avoid a trial that had been set for Wednesday on claims that she had failed to be impartial, demonstrated an improper judicial demeanor, denied parties their right to be heard in court, and caused “inordinate” delays in cases involving young children that were supposed to be fast-tracked.
Younge’s lawyer, Charles Gibbs, declined to comment. Spokespersons for Philadelphia Family Court and Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline did not immediately return calls for comment
Six different complainants had asked the disciplinary board to investigate Younge, a Democrat elected to the bench in 2015, according to court filings. She had been moved into Common Pleas Court to handle civil proceedings after the complaints were raised. Although the disciplinary board had asked that she be suspended while the charges were pending, the Court of Judicial Discipline allowed her to remain on the bench.
As a judge in Family Court, Younge on several occasions prevented parents from speaking in court proceedings about the removal of their children from their care, The Inquirer reported. One mother described being handcuffed in the courthouse while her kids were taken away. She would not regain custody of the children for eight months, until after Younge was removed from her courtroom.
In another case, a mother became ill during proceedings and stepped out of the courtroom. Younge barred her from reentering and, while she was absent, terminated her parental rights.
In Family Court, Younge also clashed with lawyers and social workers, controversially holding an attorney in contempt for missing court while he was delayed in another courtroom. She did not conceal her contempt for some Department of Human Services employees, and in court said of one social worker that she would not believe him “if his tongue were notarized.”
Though she avoided trial, Younge and lawyers for the Judicial Conduct Board will still have to submit proposed findings for a final decision by the Court of Judicial Discipline, which would then determine any sanctions. Those could include a reprimand, fines, suspension, or removal from the bench.
“The board views this as a positive development in the case,” said Richard Long, of the Judicial Conduct Board. He declined to say what type of sanction the board would seek. “There’s a still a significant amount of work to be done.”