Former judge Ann Lokuta has an intriguing claim for reinstatement: her accusers turned out to be criminals. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a stay of the Court of Judicial Discipline’s ruling to remove Lokuta and directed the Secretary of the Commonwealth not to place her judicial seat on the May ballot. Lokuta was removed after several weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses about her abusive behavior toward courthouse staff and attorneys. However, she claims that the witnesses were part of the recent criminal conspiracy by former president judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella, who took kickbacks to send kids to jail.
Lokuta insists that she was a whistleblower who Conahan and Ciavarella (and former court administrator William Sharkey) conspired to get rid of. The judges pleaded guilty last month to taking $2.6 million in kickbacks to help the owner and builder of a juvenile detention facility. Sharkey pleaded guilty to stealing more than $70,000 from the county.
The Judicial Conduct Board, however, is skeptical and says that Lokuta is refashioning herself as a whistleblower in a “desperate attempt to impugn the evidence against her.”
She has quite a task in rebutting the evidence. In the original hearing, a high number of witnesses came forward to accuse her of abusive treatment, biased rulings, and using court personnel for household chores. There were 19 witnesses, including 15 attorneys, heard at the hearing.