Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto appears immovable on a controversial roughly $1 million sanction imposed on insurance defense lawyer Nancy Raynor after a witness discussed a bar subject in his testimony. Raynor insists that she told the witness not to discuss that a woman in the case was a smoker. Various witnesses have come forward to say that they heard Raynor give such instructions, but Panepinto has dismissed the new evidence and refused to budge on the sanction. Many lawyers are worried about the standard being set by the case since witnesses will sometimes stray in their testimony without any direction or knowledge of counsel.
The case involved a medical malpractice trial in 2012 in which the estate of Rosalind Wilson, who died of lung cancer, sued Roxborough Memorial Hospital and doctors, for malpractice.
Raynor appealed the $946,147 sanctions order and, in February, the appellate panel ordered Panepinto to reconsider the penalty after trial technician Joseph Chapman came forward with a sworn statement.
Panepinto rejected the new evidence of Chapman who testified in March that he overheard Raynor advise emergency room physician John Kelly that there could be no mention of the woman’s smoking. While other witnesses have supported Raynor, Panepinto dismissed the testimony as an attempted “alibi” and even added that “This court has a number of serious concerns about Chapman’s memory, and overall capacity for telling the truth.”
Panepinto’s refusal to rescind or remove the fine has left many lawyers worried about what the standard is for such sanctions — and what they need to show to rebut the allegations. Panepinto remains convinced that “Raynor’s conduct was orchestrated to improperly influence the outcome of the trial.”
I am not familiar with the record and Panepinto clearly believes that there was intent here. However, that would mean that these witnesses are lying. That is usually not something that a court finds without a very strong basis on the record.
Judge Paul P. Panepinto attended Villanova University and graduation in 1971. He received his Juris Doctorate from the Widener University School of Law in 1976. He was appointed as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1990. He was subsequently elected in 1991 and retained in 2001. Notably, Judge Panepinto was appointed to the Committee of Judicial Discipline from 2003 to 2007.
32 thoughts on “Philadelphia Judge Refuses To Reverse $1 Million Fine Against Lawyer Despite Supporting Testimony From Multiple Witnesses”
My opinion is that it is much too difficult (if not impossible) to determine whether the sanction was reasonable or arbitrary without having attended the trial or without having the entire trial record available for review!
From lower to the SCOTUS jurists dictate with impunity. “Legislation from the bench” is egregious “overreach” and punishable by impeachment and conviction of officials for “high crimes and misdemeanors” per the Constitution.
The Constitution does not say “take forever” to impeach. It must be understood that justice must be as swift and at a pace required by the volume of violation. The French Revolution saw long lines of “officials,” quite done with their cake, awaiting the brief conclusive justice of the “guillotines.”
Jurists high and low usurp power they DO NOT HAVE because there is no oversight, enforcement or punishment.
This example is as clear as the abomination of Justice Roberts on Obamacare. Justice Roberts should have been immediately impeached and convicted for deliberate “convolution and obfuscation” and nullification of the Constitution.
The judicial branch exist to assure that actions comport with law. It does not exist to make law or otherwise RULE, DICTATE or PREVAIL.
As Speaker Pelosi was charged with vetting the candidate for eligibility, Obama violated the Constitution by not meeting the “natural born citizen” requirement of two citizen-parents, which constituted dereliction of duty and negligence by the Speaker.
There is no fear on the part of “officials” that the tool of impeachment and conviction will be deployed. In China, corruption is met with SWIFT and SEVERE justice. Jurists believe no one is comparing their product with law. Certainly, Justice Roberts knew he could change the Constitution and controvert Congressional protestations that the ACA was NOT A TAX, before our very eyes with impunity; and he did.
Sounds like this judge is behaving badly.
What’s the next step? Can the sanction be overturned? Can the judge himself be sanctioned?
Point well taken. My practice is nearly all federal, and there is often (but not always) a world of difference in my state between state court practice and federal court practice. Having been sanctioned once early in my private practice career (luckily for a small amount of $), I learned my lesson. I don’t mess around when it comes to compliance with court orders and being able to prove that I complied.
Don de Drain, while having witnesses sign off on such things may make sense, such a practice is not universal. In the state I practice in, it is not something which is routinely done even in very expensive cases.
AMartel, the issue was not what caused the lung cancer. The patient was seen, and the doctors did not tell her about a nodule on her lungs. As a result, she did not seek medical care until 20 months later. She was not alleging that the doctor’s caused her cancer, but that their negligence in failing to inform her resulted in a delay in treatment which caused harm that would otherwise not have occurred. (These are the claims, I have no idea whether the evidence supported those claims)
Damn right it’s one more thing that should be done when you prep your witnesses for trial. It takes a few minutes of time at the very most to prepare and get them to sign the acknowledgment of the judge’s order when you are prepping your witnesses. Presumably you ARE prepping your witnesses for trial, right?
As is pointed out previously, witnesses can blurt out anything once they get on the stand. If what they have said is in violation of court order, you want to make sure that it is the witness, not you, that gets dinged for violating the order. Especially if the judge is a plaintiff’s judge and the attorney is representing the defendant. If an attorney hasn’t figured that out before they go to trial, I’m wondering why they are defending a 7 figure med mal case.
Having to do stuff like you are suggesting is why so many people are quitting the legal profession, any chance they get. They even have a blog so they can rejoice and console one another, because of the excessive time and money they have lost from their lives, to get a BAR membership. It appears this judge needs more education. Perhaps we should make it mandatory for a couple of more years of college or more ethics classes.
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