The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has removed a senior judge who once presided over many of the state's biggest grand jury investigations, accusing him of judicial misconduct and abandoning his sense of objectivity during a feud with Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.
In a letter, the high court told Barry F. Feudale it was "deeply concerned" about his judgment and behavior, citing in part emails he sent to Inquirer reporters after Kane had successfully bid to have him ousted as the supervising grand jury judge in Harrisburg.
The court also said it believed that Feudale's judicial objectivity had been "clouded" by his relationship with a former prosecutor in Kane's office - a reference to Frank Fina, the once-ranking prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office who has been in a long-running feud with Kane.
The court's letter, dated Oct. 20 and obtained this week by The Inquirer, gave Feudale two weeks to respond. Apparently, he never did. On Nov. 12, the court sent a second letter to Feudale, removing him.
Feudale could not be reached for comment Friday.
The judge, 69, had been a Northumberland County public defender before rising to County Court judge. For more than a decade, he served as the grand jury judge, presiding as state prosecutors secretly built some of their biggest cases, such as the investigation into serial child abuser Jerry Sandusky, and the state workers who were paid millions of taxpayer dollars to work on political campaigns.
In 2013, Kane petitioned to have Feudale removed from his post, citing the relationship with Fina and a lack of objectivity. She also accused Feudale of brandishing a knife in front of one of her secretaries, an allegation he later described as overblown.
After his removal, Feudale still served as a senior judge, a designation that enables retired jurists to help out and preside in cases when there is a backlog or a conflict involving active members of the bench. He had not been given any assignments since the 2013 demotion, according to the letter from the court last month.
Feudale also spoke out about the relegation, blasting Kane and calling her a politician, not a prosecutor. He discussed the feud in emails with two Inquirer reporters, and openly mulled whether to provide them with materials that would document Kane's removal efforts.
The Supreme Court letter noted that Feudale emailed the reporters "in apparent disregard of the court's admonition as to the maintenance of judicial demeanor."
Kane later found some of those emails on her office servers. This fall, as she has tried to fend off calls for her own removal - she faces trial for allegedly leaking grand jury documents and lying about it - she publicly released the Feudale emails, arguing that they showed the judge's own desire to leak secret materials.
Their feud has subsequently intensified. Feudale has accused her office of burglarizing his chambers, while Kane has floated implications about whether Feudale leaked confidential information about other investigations.
Jim Koval, spokesman for the Supreme Court, said Friday that he was unaware of the letters and that no one from the court was available to comment.
Without his senior status, Feudale becomes simply a retired judge. He could reapply to become a senior judge again, a process Koval said is handled by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. That body is the same one that just handled his removal.
Kane's fate also remains cloudy. On Wednesday, a Senate panel voted to allow the full chamber to decide if she should be removed from office.
And she awaits trial in Montgomery County for leaking secret information and lying about it under oath. Prosecutors have said she did so to embarrass Fina.