In the case of Judge Chiovero, voters need only look for guidance to the state's Judicial Inquiry and Review Board, which polices judicial misconduct. The board has recommended Judge Chiovero's ouster for violating judicial ethics after finding that former Roofers Union boss Stephen Traitz Jr. arranged for the judge to get free roofing work worth $2,000.
Though the judge has been suspended with his $80,000-a-year salary for more than three years, he has somehow never found the time to offer credible evidence to disprove the charges. The Supreme Court may be taking its own sweet time in considering whether to act on the review board's recommendation, but voters don't have to wait beyond Nov. 7 to remove Judge Chiovero.
By the same token, the colorful Judge Kafrissen has a history of actions both on and off the Municipal Court bench that raise serious doubts about his ability to continue as a judge. His admitted use of judicial staff, telephones and stationery to help run several abortion clinics several years ago led to his censure, in which a Supreme Court justice asserted that Judge Kafrissen stood "in disgrace" before the court and "your judicial colleagues whom you have betrayed."
Tough talk, but Judge Kafrissen got off with what amounted to a slap on the wrist for conduct that should have warranted his removal from the bench. What's more, the good judge had to be sued by the city before he paid a $9,350 bill for back taxes, and he's known for occasional wacky decisions. (We still recall in amazement his August 1988 decision to exonerate a law student for drunken driving, despite a blood-alcohol reading of more than twice the legal limit and testimony that the driver backed over a motorcycle, dragged a man for three blocks and then struck a car.) Though the Philadelphia Bar Association, in its latest ratings, has discovered heretofore hidden qualities in Judge Kafrissen, we're afraid it's too little, too late.
Those judges who do deserve support include, on the state appellate courts, Superior Court Judge James R. Cavanaugh, Commonwealth Court Judge David Craig and, with some reservations, Supreme Court Justice John P. Flaherty. Locally, those rating another term include Philadelphia Common Pleas Judges Lynne Abraham, Joseph C. Bruno, Nicholas M. D'Alessandro, Levan Gordon and Louis Hill; and Municipal Court Judges Matthew F. Coppolino, Ronald B. Merriweather and Louis J. Presenza.
Of all the candidates up for retention, there is only one facing vocal opposition - Supreme Court Justice Flaherty. Some have questioned his temperament for the job, and some large labor unions are working for his defeat on grounds that he has been anti-labor and lenient with criminals. Besides, he probably won election in 1979 simply because his namesake was the popular former mayor of Pittsburgh.
But Justice Flaherty is not as bad as the unions say, as evidenced by the state bar association's recommendation that he be retained. He also has served as a welcome foil to the faction on the court allied with Justice Rolf R. Larsen, a justice whose conduct should have led to his removal by the voters two years ago. We find it difficult to urge Mr. Flaherty's removal, given the company he keeps on the state's top court.