2010
01.04

This is the transcript of Judge DelRicci’s recusal from the case.


Recusal
Monday, July 6, 2009
Commencing at 10:00 a.m.

Courtroom G
Montgomery County Courthouse
Norristown, Pennsylvania

Before: the Honorable Thomas M. Del Ricci, Judge

Parties appeared as follows:
Terance Healy, pro se


Healy vs. Healy

THE COURT: The first matter on our docket for today is an announcement of an Order in the matter of Sonya Healy versus Terance Healy. In the divorce file, it is docketed at 07-12477. And the purpose of this proceeding is just to make an announcement of an Order and an explanation for the Order that I feel is appropriately made on the record.

The transcript will reflect that I have advised the parties that this was going to occur today and I note the presence of Mr. Healy in the audience, as well as young Mr. Healy in the audience as well. Mrs. Healy and her attorneys have obviously chosen not to attend and their attendance was not compulsory.

By way of background, this Court has presided over this case for approximately 18 months. During that period of time, we have addressed a variety of issues including support, support enforcement, custody and civil contempt among others. We have been firm and, most importantly, have attempted to be fair in conducting all of those proceedings. A review of our rulings shows that we have issued rulings in favor and against both parties as the law required in each instance. As far as scheduling hearings, that was at all times handled by court administration. I do not place matters on my docket. It is important to note that all matters involving this case as with every other case were scheduled in accordance with procedures that were issued and published and adopted by this Court 18 months ago when I took over Judge Dickman’s docket. The only involvement I have with scheduling is to grant or deny continuance requests, and when a matter is placed on the Court’s protracted list over the two-week protracted cycle, I call those cases into court in the order in which they are listed. All other scheduling matters are handled in accordance with those procedures and directed by the Office of Court Administration in the family division.

I bring all of this up because of information that I have come across recently that has affected my ability to continue to preside over this case. Let me begin by saying I will probably use the wrong computer terms when describing what I’m about to describe, but that’s not because of any intent on my part, it’s because of a lack of knowledge of the correct terms. Several weeks ago my daughter while surfing the web and utilizing a search engine called Bing, she came across an article, posting or blogs, I don’t know the correct term, written by Mr. Healy. Now I am not adverse to criticism. Needless to say, these blogs were hardly flattering, but I am not adverse to criticism; it is part of the job. I have what I consider to be somewhat broad shoulders and, if I did not, I could not continue ion this position because being a judge requires you to make difficult decisions and you are not going to make the parties that appear in front of you happy at all times. So one must expect to be reasonably criticized and perhaps even somewhat unfairly criticized. But when the materials that I reviewed on that day went beyond the scope of any fair criticism of this individual judge or of the Court, the words imply that the Court was guilty of wrongful conduct. It was an indictment that struck at the very integrity of the Court and our system of justice. These words were not merely opinion, clearly Mr. Healy and any person is entitled to hold, express and publish their opinions. That is a right that has been guaranteed since shortly after the founding of this country and we do not take exception to that. But when opinions are interlaced with statements purported to be facts that are not only untrue, but indeed, libelous, we go beyond that which can be supported under any First Amendment right.

Now having been confronted with this situation, I took pause to determine how to approach it. I took no immediate action to avoid acting irrationally or with any specter of emotion. I took the time to discuss the matter with a fellow jurist whose opinions I hold in high respect. I have also discussed the matter with the administrative judge of the family court division. I was not unmindful and specifically addressed the sensitive scheduling issues that relate to this case in particular due to prior continuance requests by Mr. Healy that were granted by this Court. And the delay that was part of a complaint that was addressed in the postings. I also consulted with private counsel regarding my rights to seek civil redress against the publisher, as well as to discuss my obligations as a jurist. All of this discussion and thought process led me to a single conclusion that was concurred with by all of those with whom I had consulted. It is a course of proceeding that I undertake reluctantly, not because it is incorrect course of proceeding, but because it goes against my nature not to avoid that which is unpleasant or difficult and to put aside any personal feelings or opinions that I may hold and to judge a case fairly based upon the evidence and the merits of the position advanced by each party. It is what I have attempted to do as a judge since I have been honored with this office over the past 11 years.

I am recusing myself from presiding over further proceedings in this case. Though I believe I can be fair, the fact that consideration has been given to taking action together with all of the other circumstances raises at least a specter of a lack of impartiality. Any appearance of impropriety or potential unfairness must be avoided because that can only harm the Court and I will not be party to that.

As stated previously, I discussed this matter with the administrative judge of the family court division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. She has been made aware of this Court’s concern regarding the timing of this hearing. I did not specifically direct and I do not specifically direct any scheduling date. Again, to do so would be getting involved in something that I am recusing myself from getting involved with. Accordingly, I leave that decision up to the Office of Court Administration which is their province.

I am directing therefore that an Order be issued at this point recusing myself from further proceedings and directing that the court administration reassign this matter to another judge in the family division. That Order will be docketed today.

Thank You
(at 10:08 a.m., proceedings were concluded.)

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