- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An Erie County judge accused of belittling and disrespecting litigants was hit with judicial ethics charges Monday after an investigation produced allegations she also mishandled cases.

The Judicial Conduct Board charged Erie Common Pleas Court Judge Stephanie Domitrovich with violating behavioral standards for judges, failing to disqualify herself from certain cases and providing misleading and false answers to the board’s lawyers earlier this year.

The board’s 37-page complaint said Domitrovich was described as “impatient, intemperate, belittling, overly critical or disrespectful” from the bench toward lawyers, litigants and witnesses. The board also sought to have her suspended on an interim basis.

Her lawyer, Leonard Ambrose III, released a statement that called the allegations “devoid of merit” and listed some of her professional accomplishments, including serving as president of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in 2005-06. Domitrovich has about a month to file a written response.

Domitrovich has been a county judge in Erie since 1990. If the Court of Judicial Discipline determines the charges have merit, she could face reprimand, suspension or removal from the bench.

The board identified four cases before her in which they claim she was “impatient, undignified and discourteous.” It said that behavior included yelling, finger-pointing, sarcasm, storming off the bench, forcing a litigant to shake hands against his wishes, comparing a man’s child to a criminal defendant, bullying and threats.

It accused her of misleading a board lawyer during a February investigative deposition, claiming an employee sent pornographic emails when in fact the employee received a single objectionable email and did not forward it.

Domitrovich also said her husband, a lawyer, did not help her draft opinions or perform other duties, but her staff said she commonly sent her husband legal materials for review and sometimes to be edited.

The Erie Times-News reported Domitrovich won retention in 1999 and 2009, and currently is assigned to family and orphans court. Her salary is $174,000.

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Online:

Judicial Conduct Board charges: https://bit.ly/1ms5JKW


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