Court Official A Wife-beater? Protection Order Sought By His Spouse

Posted: September 27, 1995

The wife of Philadelphia's top court administrator is seeking a protection- from-abuse order against her husband, accusing him of beating her once and threatening to kill her.

Denise Gallas on Friday obtained a temporary protection order against her husband, Geoff Gallas, pending a hearing today in Common Pleas Court's family division. Through a secretary, her husband declined comment.

"Plaintiff is in immediate and present danger of abuse," says Denise Gallas' written request for a protection order. She could not be reached for comment.

Her petition said she has been threatened on several occasions and accused Gallas of beating her several years ago in front of the oldest of the couple's three children when they were in a car.

As the $96,277-a-year executive director of the First Judicial District, Geoff Gallas, 50, of Mount Airy, is one of the city's most powerful officials.

Appointed by the state Supreme Court in late 1991, he oversees virtually all administrative functions of Common Pleas, Traffic and Municipal courts, including the division that will hear his wife's request for protection.

He controls a combined budget of nearly $98 million, directly supervises more than 200 employees and has hiring and firing power over many of the courts' other 1,900 workers, most of whom are not protected by civil service.

He is so influential that his wife's request for a protection order created a stir among some court employees.

After the Daily News yesterday requested a copy of her petition, several unidentified family division clerks initially refused to release it to their boss, Mark Aleva.

They released it only after getting an OK from Common Pleas Judge Esther Sylvester, the administrative judge for the family division, even though protection orders and requests for them are public information and such information is routinely given out.

A secretary for Common Pleas Judge Thomas Watkins, who is scheduled to preside at the hearing today on Gallas' request, hung up repeatedly on a Daily News reporter Monday when he attempted to find out when the hearing was scheduled.

Denise Gallas' petition accuses her husband of verbal abuse "on an ongoing basis," and says that the most recent threat occurred around Aug. 19 when they were vacationing at an unidentifed spot in North Carolina.

"Defendant (Geoff Gallas) stated to plaintiff, in substance, that she deserved to be beaten and he raised his hand to plaintiff in a threatening manner, as if to strike her," the petition states.

The petition said Gallas is about to file for divorce and that she believes her husband "will react violently to such a filing."

It also accuses him of "other acts of abuse," and details one alleged episode of violence dating back several years.

While Gallas was driving a car with his wife and oldest child as passengers, he "repeatedly struck Plaintiff about the head with a closed fist and forcibly and repeatedly struck Plaintiff's head against the car window," the petition states.

"On several occasions within the past year, Defendant has pushed Plaintiff," the petition continues, adding that Gallas "threatened to kill" his wife once this past summer.

Gallas' petition asks the court to evict her husband from their house and that he be escorted by city police if he ever visits the home.

It also asks the court to order him not to contact her or her relatives, award her temporary custody of their three children and that any new address not be divulged to him if she moves.

Gallas was appointed the courts' top administrator at a time when the state Supreme Court was trying to resolve a number of problems that had created a huge criminal and civil case backlog.

A West Coast native, he has a doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California and a master's degree in education from Harvard.

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