There is an astonishing story coming from Pennsylvania where the wife of Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery appears to not only pull a salary as his chief judicial aide but has reportedly pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees from law firms who appear before her husband. In just one such referral fee, Lise Rapaport, received $821,000.
It is surprising enough to learn that Justice McCaffery pays his own wife a public salary as his top aide. However, even though she reportedly holds this state judicial job, she is allowed to continue to receive huge amounts of money from firms on the side without prior disclosure.
What I find most surprising is that this type of thing is not clearly prohibited. Indeed, there is a division among experts as to whether she had to disclose the money. The nepotism in the judicial job should raise some issues. Then there is the outside income from firms doing business before the court.
In all Rapaport has received 18 payments as referral fees from firms.
Putting aside an actual conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict is tremendous.
McCaffery has reportedly ruled on 11 Supreme Court cases in which some of the firms were participants. No one allegedly revealed the payments in some cases.
This is not Rapaport’s first controversy regarding special treatment. News reports previously suggested that she was given a pass on a traffic matter after being charged with driving the wrong way down a street.
Notably, none of the articles that I have read on this controversy suggest that there is any concern over a justice hiring his own wife as an aide. I am not sure why such hiring of immediate family members is not prohibited under nepotism rules.
What do you think?