Letters to the Editor

Posted: June 19, 2011

Chief justice says coverage was unfair

Having served in publicly elected office for decades, I am certainly accustomed to the rough-and-tumble media coverage of public service and the influence that big-city newspapers wield in their coverage. Ideally, the press investigates matters of public importance, thoroughly reviews the relevant facts, and, for the public's benefit, provides an objective and reasoned analysis of the issue at hand.

However, your publication crossed the line in its inaccurate, unfair, and biased coverage of me during the past year, the most egregious example of which was your Boss Tweed-style cartoon depicting me as a corrupt judge with cash, watches, and other bribes concealed in my clothing. The clear intent of the coverage and cartoon was to paint me as a person of little integrity who sells his judicial decisions for as little as a round of golf - a claim that is false and outrageous and that dishonors my nearly 40 years of public service.

The coverage also included numerous factual errors and innuendos that do a disservice to readers as well as to me. By falsely characterizing as a "longtime friend" a professional adviser on the Family Courthouse project hired by another Supreme Court justice, and reporting that my present salary allows me to pay taxes on a Jersey Shore property that I sold more than 10 years ago, The Inquirer supplemented biased coverage with shoddy journalism. It is small consolation that, despite the accusatory tone of your coverage, you accurately reported in the fourth paragraph of your article that "A review of cases shows no pattern of favoritism in [Castille's] decisions."

While it is all but impossible for me to counter the false impression painted by this newspaper, I ask those who know my character and integrity to view me in the context of my career serving the public. As a young man, I served my nation on active duty in the Marine Corps in a combat battalion. After I came to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital from Vietnam severely injured, I made Philadelphia my home and later served as a career prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office, before being twice elected district attorney of Philadelphia. I continue to serve the citizens of Pennsylvania on the oldest Supreme Court in the nation with honor, and I now have the great privilege of serving as chief justice of that court.

I have always believed in the fairness of our citizens, and I will let any ultimate judgment about my reputation rest with them, in spite of The Inquirer's unwarranted and unfounded attacks.

Ronald D. Castille

Chief Justice

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Harrisburg

Closing St. Kevin's was shortsighted

I am appalled at the way the archdiocese has handled the closing of St. Kevin's grade school ("Parents say St. Kevin's Catholic school's closing a shock" June 11).

I was especially dismayed by the language employed by Superintendent of Schools Mary E. Rochford. To simply tell parents and parishioners that the closure decision is final is a failure of leadership.

Small wonder the church and its schools are in the shape that they are.

Rochford explained that the school's deficit would have drained resources from the parish. So? Is St. Kevin's parish better off without a Catholic school to cultivate and inspire generations of future Catholics?

Must all Catholic schools be profitable stand-alone operations? Are parishes now expected to cut their losses by closing a school? And how does any of this sustain Catholic education?

The school and parish leadership will never solve their sustainability challenges without involving parents and alumni.

Such conversations obviously did not take place in this case.

Cardinal Justin Rigali and Rochford should know - and act - better.

John Francis Dolan

Wynnewood

Locals are sounder on public health

One enduring principle of our federalist system is preemption, according to which a higher government authority should have the right to preempt the laws of lower authorities when there exists a compelling reason.

But authorities and people at the local level are in the best position to know how to protect the public's health. Compare, for example, how in the last few decades Philadelphia City Council has handled contemporary health and safety issues with how the Pennsylvania General Assembly has.

City Council had members in the early 1980s pushing for smoke-free public places, well before the General Assembly knew there was a problem with secondhand smoke. Philadelphia had one of the strictest controls on selling cigarettes to minors, years before the state could organize a decent program to address the issue. Recently, Philadelphia City Council wisely banned the use of handheld communication devices for drivers of motor vehicles, bikes, and even skateboards. The General Assembly is still contemplating whether or not this behavior is hazardous.

Stephen F. Gambescia

Associate Professor

College of Nursing

and Health Professions

Drexel University

Philadelphia

sfg23@drexel.edu

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