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Buried in a filing: a new case of Philly judicial misconduct

Three springs ago, Ian C. Rexach had a problem - Philadelphia was suing him for not paying $5,000 in business privilege taxes.

Three springs ago, Ian C. Rexach had a problem - Philadelphia was suing him for not paying $5,000 in business privilege taxes.

He owns a barbershop on West Girard Avenue in Northern Liberties, called Cutmaster. He's also the son of Common Pleas Court Judge Angeles Roca, for whom he works a second job as her $42,000-a-year tipstaff.

His tax case had already been before a Municipal Court judge, who found for the city on May 15, 2012. Rexach appealed.

And on June 12, Municipal Court Judge Dawn A. Segal ruled that his case had no merit.

Seventeen days later, Segal got a call from one of her colleagues, Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. He said a "friend" was involved in a case before her.

And right after that call, Waters visited Segal in her private robing room to talk about Rexach's case.

Segal reversed her ruling. Rexach's problem went away.

This story of judges, relatives and reversals was a little-noticed aspect of a disciplinary filing last week by the state Judicial Conduct Board against Waters and Segal.

The Judicial Conduct Board has not made allegations against Roca, 60. Its counsel, Robert Graci, said the board would make not comments about its filings.

Sources familiar with the matter said Roca had discussed her son's lawsuit with Waters and asked for his help before he meet with Segal.

The matter of Rexach, 34, and his tax suit is a new allegation of misconduct against Waters and Segal. There are others.

Segal is alleged to have improperly discussed an unrelated civil case with Waters in 2011. The board said in that earlier case that Waters contacted Segal in hopes of giving a "secret advantage" to a Democratic party contributor.

She and Waters also had discussed a felony gun case she was hearing, the board said. After their improper talk, it said, Segal downgraded the charges to a misdemeanor.

Neither Rexach nor Segal has been charged with a crime. Roca is not mentioned by name in the filing by the board.

But Segal has been removed from active court duty and is to face a trial-like hearing this year before the Court of Judicial Discipline. She is suspended with pay.

In January, Waters received a two-year federal sentence for trying to fix Philadelphia civil and criminal court cases. He is serving his time a federal prison in Ashland, KY.

Segal's attorney, Stewart L. Haimowitz, has said she made her decisions based solely on the law in the matters cited by the Judicial Conduct Board and she looked forward to resolving her case before the judicial court.

Haimowitz conceded that his client should have promptly told the Judicial Conduct Board about her conversations with Waters.

"She didn't, and that's the issue we'll address with Court of Judicial Discipline," he said, declining to say why Segal failed to immediately report her talks with Waters.

Haimowitz said he would ask the Court of Judicial Discipline for an expedited hearing, and hoped it would take place this spring .

In addition to the charges against Segal, the board filed a similar complaint involving the Rexach lawsuit against Waters.

Waters' lawyer, Michael J. Engle, said Waters would not comment on the Rexach tax matter, noting it was not part of the federal criminal case.

Engle said Waters was "not in a position to comment before the Judicial Conduct Board based on his Fifth Amendment privilege."

The Court of Judicial Discipline has power to remove judges from the bench. Segal is expected to file a response to the board's charges within a month in preparation for her hearing before the disciplinary court, her lawyer said.

A similar hearing will be held for Waters, but because he pleaded guilty to similar charges in federal court, a negative outcome is virtually certain for him.

Roca did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Contacted at the barbershop late Friday, Rexach said wanted to talk with his mother before discussing the city's 2012 lawsuit against him.

After the Rexach case was reversed, federal prosecutors and FBI agents in 2013 subpoenaed financial information from Roca, Segal, Waters and two other judges.

As for his tax matter, the case stands as adjudicated. He doesn't have to pay the $5,000.