December 30, 2007
Kindly refrain from uproarious laughter and knee-slapping. This is no joke. The Pennsylvania Bar Association conferred its highest honor -- drum roll, please -- on state Chief Justice Ralph Cappy.
They even put his picture on the front page of the Jan. 7 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar News periodical, holding his glorious ''PBA Bar Medal.''
An accompanying story said Cappy, who is leaving the the bench to take a job with a huge law firm, is only the ninth person to get the award in the PBA's 112-year history. ''Chief Justice Cappy's entire career reflects his commitment to the fairness and effectiveness of our judicial system,'' PBA President Andrew Susko was quoted as saying.
The story did not give details about the proclamation enacted by the PBA to bestow its award, so I can only imagine how the wording went. I envision something like this:
WHEREAS Chief Justice Ralph Cappy has presided over the worst lawyer discipline system in America, as determined by Americans for Legal Reform, the nation's top lawyer watchdog organization,
WHEREAS Mr. Cappy allowed only feeble improvements in lawyer discipline, to blow smoke after the ALR rankings scandal (Pennsylvania was 51st out of 50 states and the District of Columbia),
WHEREAS, apart from Mr. Cappy's concessions on discipline and malpractice, Pennsylvania was still rated dead last among all states in tort reform (steps to prevent lawyers from filing bogus lawsuits, etc.),
WHEREAS Mr. Cappy refused to be intimidated by worrywarts who felt he should adhere to his oath to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution,
WHEREAS Mr. Cappy gallantly helped subvert that constitution by presiding over a ruling that blessed a blatantly unconstitutional measure to create slot machine casinos,
WHEREAS Mr. Cappy made it clear he'd also wink at similarly illegal legislation to hike the salaries of state bigwigs (including himself), as he sullied his robes by unabashedly hawking the pay grabs,
WHEREAS Mr. Cappy arranged a ruling to help certain lawyers fill their pockets (it said lawyers, and only lawyers, are exempt from ethics laws designed to keep lobbyists from looting taxpayers),
AND WHEREAS Mr. Cappy has accommodated the most greed, unscrupulousness and other foul traits ascribed to lawyers since William Shakespeare's ''Henry VI,''
NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved by all us esteemed esquires in the PBA that he be given our marvelous award.
The actual proclamation, I suppose, is not worded precisely that way, but it should be. I did not even include some of Cappy's vilest actions, such as the preposterous opinion he wrote in the Louis DeNaples case, as discussed Dec. 17 by colleague Bill White.
I have done a lot of lawyer-bashing, but aimed mainly at the dregs of the profession. I always held most lawyers in high regard, but this latest item has shaken that respect.
We must assume the PBA represents a wide range of lawyers, and the Cappy award thus creates obvious doubts about that entire organization.
Is greed the only value that PBA members hold dear?
If there exists any lawyer in Pennsylvania with a shred of integrity or self-respect, he or she will scream in outrage over the deranged decision to honor someone like this. In the meantime, the silence from our lawyers is deafening. firstname.lastname@example.org 610-820-6176