Ex-Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Judge Ann Lokuta wasn’t know for tolerance in her 11th Judicial District Court Room in Luzerne County’s Court of Common Pleas. So it’s hardly surprising she’s had a tough time tolerating much less, accepting her removal from the bench for being a judicial bully.
Her motion for reconsideration having been denied earlier this year by her state’s supreme court, she is now mulling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch attempt to get her job back. See “Court won’t reconsider Lokuta plea.”
I wouldn’t put any money on her chances of succeeding, though. But I’ll say this, she’s hanging on with the tenacity of a tick on a coon hound. According to one report,“Law.com – ‘Bully’ Judge Banned From Bench . . . .,” her case already set a record as “the longest and most costly judicial ethics investigation in Pennsylvania history.”
It was October 2008 when Judge Lokuta was shown the door for her long-term routine mistreatment of staff, witnesses, lawyers, judicial peers and seemingly anyone who crossed her when they crossed her path.
She now claims it was all trumped-up to punish her for speaking out about judicial corruption. More specifically, she blames former colleague Mark Ciavarella and former Judge Michael T. Conahan. She says they set her up for a fall from berobed grace and supposedly orchestrated her removal as a judge.
In the mess that has beset Luzerne County courtrooms of late, Judges Ciavarella and Conahan previously pled guilty to corruption charges in having accepted more than $2.6 million in a “Kids for cash” scandal” involving kickbacks for sending teens to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. See “Despite Red Flags, Judges Ran Kickback Scheme for Years” – NYTimes.com
As for Judge Lokuta, she refuses to go away. She wants her job back and there is something about the word, ‘no,’ that she refuses to understand. And so it’s become something like interminably watching rescreenings of the classic but schlocky The Brain That Wouldn’t Die but without the fun.
It was 2004 when the judicial investigation began. But it wasn’t until 2006 when the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board issued its Probable Cause Complaint alleging how extraordinarily ornery she was.
Her disagreeableness spared few and included, lawyers, staff, litigants and other judges. “Since taking the bench in 1992, the Respondent routinely engaged in a pattern of behavior that has created a hostile work and courtroom environment in which attorneys, court personnel, and the Respondent’s personal staff, are constantly on edge with anxiety and fear because of the Respondent’s volatile and unpredictable behavior.”
The probable cause complaint also did credit to “Roget’s Thesaurus” for its invocation of synonyms for unpleasantness, to wit, that Judge Lokuta demonstrated “a pattern of behavior toward attorneys appearing before her as discourteous, rude, impatient, undignified, abrasive, unprofessional, shabby, sarcastic, demeaning, unreasonably critical and condescending.” See State court bans Lokuta from bench | The Times Leader,
The judge also ‘favored’ court personnel with the blessings of doing household chores for her. “We daresay that the reasonable expectations of the public would include the expectation that a judge would not require her law clerk to spend her time raking the judge’s yard, bubble wrapping the judge’s things or scrubbing the judge’s floors.” Read the rest of the 226-page decision at “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline In Re Ann H. Lokuta.”
In spite of ethical canons against it, judicial discourtesy or incivility are hardly new. Prior reports here, for example, include, “Of vegetables, incivility and looking for “Judge Judy” and “A Flat Tire, an Offending ‘Moon’ and a Falling But Dancing Star” and “Foot massages no more.”
But most of the time, it’s given a pass, ascribing it merely to a jurist who’s “Straight-talking” or a ‘No-Nonsense Judge’ or that “gets tough.” Thankfully, despite Judge Lokuta’s best efforts and all the time it’s taken, that didn’t happen this time in Luzerne County.