According to an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury, Erie, Pa.-based state appellate judge Michael T. Joyce, a ten-year Republican veteran of the bench,
received $440,000 in settlements for injuries he claimed “affected his professional and personal life in a very significant way” after an SUV rear-ended his state-leased Mercedes Benz at a traffic light in Erie.
Joyce claimed the accident made him unable to play golf, scuba dive or exercise. He also claimed the injuries prevented him from pursuing higher judicial office, according to the indictment.
The judge complained of constant neck and back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and short-term memory loss, according to the indictment. He claimed he was in such pain from May to July 2002 that he could not play a round of golf or hold a cup of coffee in his right hand, the indictment said.
During the same period Joyce made these claims, he played several rounds of golf in Jamaica, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, went scuba diving in Jamaica and renewed his diving instructor’s certificate, prosecutors said.
The indictment also alleges Joyce used some of the settlement money to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a share in a single-engine Cessna airplane, property in Millcreek Township, Pa., and to pay down a personal line of credit.
(Peter Hall and Asher Hawkins, “Federal Indictment Looms Over Pa. Superior Court Judge’s Retention Race”, Legal Intelligencer, Aug. 17).
At first Joyce vowed to hold onto his seat, but after a public outcry, and a quick move by the state supreme court to suspend him from his duties pending resolution of the charges, he agreed not to stand for re-election in November. (“Indicted Superior Court Judge” (editorial), Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 22; Paula Reed Ward, “Indicted judge won’t seek retention”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 21; “The Joyce indictment: A matter of integrity”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Aug. 21).