A former deputy constable seeking elected office had no difficulty winning the support of voters in Lower Merion Township, but yesterday, a Montgomery County Court judge proved less receptive.
Accusing Steven D. Sokoloff of deceiving the electorate, Judge Paul W. Tressler made a temporary injunction permanent and ordered the 58-year-old Ardmore resident stricken as the November winner of one of two constable positions.
The judge also found Sokoloff in contempt of a November 2007 consent decree, made after a dozen complaints were filed stemming from Sokoloff's work as a deputy constable. Tressler ordered Sokoloff to pay a $2,500 fine and spend two weekends - a total of four days - in jail. That sentence will begin Jan. 29.
Sokoloff's attorney, Jonathan F. Altman, who has called his client's court agreement illegal and unenforceable, said he would appeal both decisions. Sokoloff said he was too upset to comment.
"This guy had no right to run," Tressler said. "The evidence is circumstantial, but it's overwhelming."
Tressler cited a December 2007 agreement, which the judge had signed, in which Sokoloff agreed to give up working as a deputy constable under his wife, Julie Sokoloff, and agreed not to run for constable in Montgomery County. Sokoloff and his wife, an incumbent, both ran and won.
Sokoloff testified yesterday that he did not recall the second part of the agreement, even though his former attorney, Mark Pearlstein, testified that Sokoloff was so distressed over that provision that he tried unsuccessfully to excise it.
Tressler rejected Sokoloff's claim of selective memory, saying it "defies all logic."
Sokoloff's candidacy in March triggered a petition from the District Attorney's Office to hold him in contempt for violating the court order, and his victory in November prompted a petition for a temporary restraining order from Michael Landau, the next-highest vote-getter.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Gil said a procedure is in place to fill the vacancy with a court appointment until the next election.
Landau's attorney, Gregory W. Fox, said his client is "weighing his options."
Gil said he was pleased with the judge's ruling, which confirmed that Sokoloff had violated a court order and "sends a message that in Montgomery County, court orders must be followed."
In exchange for Sokoloff's promise not to do constable work, Gil said the District Attorney's Office agreed not to prosecute him for the complaints about his work as a deputy constable, and to spare his wife, who appointed him, from any civil penalties.