Common Pleas judge Nocella hit with disciplinary charges

Posted: October 24, 2012

THE STATE'S Court of Judicial Discipline filed charges of ethical violations Tuesday against Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Thomas M. Nocella.

According to the complaint, Nocella failed to disclose information on a questionnaire submitted to a Philadelphia Bar Association commission that uses the information to evaluate judicial candidates' fitness for office and whether they should be recommended by the bar.

Last fall, Democratic ward leaders nominated Nocella to be the party's candidate in the general election for a vacant seat on the Court of Common Pleas.

The complaint alleged that when Nocella submitted a September 2011 update evaluation questionnaire, he "failed to disclose multiple facts" that changed answers to questions that had been posed on a Feb. 5, 2009, questionnaire when Nocella was a judge of Municipal Court and a candidate for re-election.

Nocella allegedly signed a certification statement with the update that did not include any new information that would change answers to questions on the 2009 questionnaire, including whether he had been named as a defendant or a party to any criminal or civil matter.

The complaint said that Nocella failed to disclose - or to subsequently inform an investigative panel during an October 2011 interview - that he had been found in contempt of two court orders regarding a Philadelphia Board of Ethics matter, which was subsequently settled for $16,000 in November 2009.

Nocella also allegedly failed to disclose two IRS liens filed against him in March 2011 for more than $469,000; two creditor judgments filed against him in April and May 2011 for more than $1.2 million; and a June 2011 Chapter 13 voluntary-bankruptcy petition he filed in June 2011 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Nocella's attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, said that the complaint "can be resolved in a reasonable way," adding: "This has nothing to do with his judicial duties or his performance as a judge. He's a very good judge and very well-respected. He might have made some mistakes, but they're not fatal."

Contact Michael Hinkelman at or 215-854-2656. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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