WAYNESBURG – Former Greene County Judge Farley Toothman and the Judicial Conduct Board that filed a 21-count complaint against him last May have agreed to the facts in his judicial misconduct case in order to avoid a trial.
The two sides jointly filed the stipulations of fact in lieu of trial Friday, which now sets in motion the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline to review the evidence in the case and determine whether Toothman violated any judicial laws.
If so, Toothman could face various sanctions and penalties that include a reprimand, fine, restrictions from future service or revoking his state pension and benefits.
The case revolves around five incidents between 2017 and 2019 while Toothman was president judge.
The most serious accusation is that Toothman used his power as judge to interfere with a retail theft investigation into his law clerk at a Waynesburg convenience store in September 2017, although she was never charged with a crime. He was then accused of intervening in a county probation staff meeting the following day about the woman who accused the law clerk of shoplifting at the convenience store.
Toothman had found information that the woman had not paid a $10 monthly fine since the beginning of that year, and he demanded the probation officer order the woman to his courtroom rather than report to her community service location. Toothman held the woman, who had no legal representation for the impromptu proceeding, in “civil contempt” and ordered her to spend 25 days in the Greene County jail.
He also was accused of providing a confidential secure court docket summary of the woman’s case to the convenience store owner during a meeting in his judge’s chambers. Toothman released the woman from jail following a subsequent hearing after she was incarcerated for 25 days.
“You’ve done your time?” Toothman asked the woman, according to court transcripts. “You going to be a good girl?”
In January 2018, Toothman posted a union grievance from a female custodian on the public bulletin board outside the two courtrooms, which included the worker’s name and personal phone number. It was taken down the following day, but a meeting between Toothman, the county solicitor, two county commissioners and the human resources director indicated that the act could be considered retaliation.
“You think I’m going to retaliate?” Toothman said in the meeting. “You’re damned right I’m going to retaliate.”
During an interview with the Judicial Conduct Board, Toothman acknowledged it was “wrong for me to have put it up.”
Toothman also was accused of improperly handling a case involving the division of marital property, closing a protection-from-abuse hearing to the public and modifying local court rules surrounding payments of a $50 fee for filing divorce complaints.
Toothman took a temporary leave from the bench Oct. 5 after being charged last May. He eventually relinquished his duties as president judge and resigned Jan. 3.
Bethann Lloyd, who is representing Toothman in the case, issued a brief statement Monday about the joint stipulation, but declined further comment.
“Our reaching of a stipulation in this case is reflective of Retired Judge Toothman’s desire to cooperate with the Judicial Conduct Board, to acknowledge facts that are not in dispute and to advance an efficient and non-adversarial resolution of the matters at issue,” Lloyd wrote in an email.
Now that the two sides have agreed to the facts, judges with the state Court of Judicial Discipline will have to determine whether Toothman’s actions rose to the level of judicial misconduct. Richard Long, the chief counsel for the Judicial Conduct Board that brought the charges, said it was too soon to know when the court will make its determination whether they made a “clear and convincing” case.
“The court would have to decide whether he violated any judicial laws,” Long said. “There could still be testimony, but I believe in this matter all the facts that need to be before the court are part of the stipulations.”
Toothman had been a judge since 2009 after he was nominated by former governor Ed Rendell to fill the seat vacated when H. Terry Grimes retired. He won a full 10-year term in 2011, and took over as president judge upon William Nalitz’s retirement in 2015. His term was set to expire in January 2022.