Judge Domitrovich Disqualified from Handling Legal Motions Filed by Son
Erie County Court of Commons Pleas Judge Stephanie Domitrovich is disqualified from receiving, considering or signing any motion or pleading filed by her son, according to an administrative order issued by Erie County President Judge John Trucilla Tuesday.
At issue, are some petitions filed by the judge's son, Attorney Aaron Susmarski, representing the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM). Two petitions submitted by Susmarski that were later approved the same day, were included as exhibits in the order.
Trucilla told Erie News Now Wednesday, "I'll let the order speak for itself."
The administrative order cites rules in the in the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct. The order specifically references one of the petitions on behalf of LECOM, a Petition to Appoint a Private Police Officer of a Nonprofit Corporation. The petition was granted and signed by Judge Domitrovich November 4th.
The order goes on to decree that no members of the bench of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas will personally file petitions, motions or pleadings...brought before him or her, saying that must be done by the "moving party." Judge Trucilla's order says that is consistent with the Court's practices and protects it from any appearance of impropriety.
Judge Trucilla's order also directs that no member of the bench shall reach out to a senior judge in efforts to reassign any of their caseload. That should be done through the Administrative Judge of their division, with the President Judge if necessary.
Judge Domitrovich was the subject of an ethics case starting in July 2014 when the Judicial Conduct Board filed a complaint against her. It alleged she was unpleasant on and off the bench in her treatment of lawyers, litigants and staff. The complaint also raised concerns about her "ex-parte" communications in matters before her court. The board wanted her suspended from the bench, but the full Court of Judicial Discipline in Harrisburg denied that, based on her long history as a trial judge and her professional accomplishments.
Instead, Judge Domitrovich was ordered to complete a newly created Judicial Diversionary Program, which required her to complete a year of mentoring under retired Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green. The ethics case was officially dismissed in August 2016 after Lally-Green said Dimitrovich successfully and diligently fulfilled the program.
Voters retained Judge Domitrovich for another, 10-year term during the November 2019 general election. She received 62 percent support from voters.
Domitrovich has been on the bench since 1990.