Ethics in Adoption – what about the judges?
Judicial ethics typically require judges to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and perform their duties impartially.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board dismissed a complaint in Masha’s domestic adoption where the jurist who decided the adoption, Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen, was the adoptive parent, Faith Allen’s, former roommate.
In addition, prior to finalization, the single adoptive parent changed her last name from Lynn Ginn to the judge’s last name (becoming Faith Allen) with the judge’s court attorney representing Lynn/Faith in the name change proceeding.
Finally, Judge Allen wasn’t even assigned to the family court when the adoption was finalized.
A detailed newspaper story about the adoption–complete with the judge’s picture–which ran on the day of the adoption in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette formed the basis for the complaint.
The Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct states that “judges should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should themselves observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved.” Canon 1
Judges must “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities” and ” should not allow their family, social, or other relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment.” Canon 2
Judges should not knowingly permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge and “should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.” Canon 2
Judges should perform the duties of their office impartially and diligently. They should abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in any court. Canon 3(A)(6)
Finally, judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where they have a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding. Canon 3(C)(1)(a)
After spending almost a year investigating, the Board determined that there was “insufficient indication of judicial misconduct to justify further inquiry” and dismissed the complaint.
Did the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board get it right? What do you think?