Pa. Judge Charged in Alleged Insurance Scam Suspended

August 21, 2007

Pennsylvania’s highest court last Friday suspended Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce, who was indicted earlier this week on federal charges of cheating two insurance companies out of $440,000.

The state Supreme Court said it was suspending Joyce with pay “to protect and preserve the integrity of the Unified Judicial System and the administration of justice for the citizens of this Commonwealth.”

Joyce, 58, told insurers that an August 2001 traffic accident left him in such pain that he was unable to exercise or play golf for more than a year. The indictment announced Wednesday says he actually was playing 18-hole rounds on courses as far away as Jamaica, going scuba diving and inline skating, and working out at a local gym.

Joyce is the first state appellate judge to be charged with a crime — and the first to be suspended — in more than a decade, court officials said. He has said he is innocent of the mail fraud and money laundering charges against him.

Joyce issued a statement Friday in which he said he anticipated the suspension and that he did not intend to appeal it.

“It’s normal procedure. It is an appropriate action under the circumstances to protect the integrity of the courts,” he wrote.

His statement did not mention his campaign for a second 10-year term. He had said Thursday that he still planned to stand for an up-or-down “retention” vote in the November election.

He may continue that campaign because his suspension is an administrative action that does not affect his employment as a judge, said a spokeswoman for the State Department.

“He’s not technically out of office,” Catherine Ennis said.

Joyce’s attorney, David Ridge, declined to comment on the suspension.

In the accident that occurred just outside of Erie, Joyce’s 2001 Mercedes-Benz was rear-ended by a sport-utility vehicle traveling about 5 mph, prosecutors said. No police or medical personnel were called to the scene.

Joyce received $390,000 from his insurer, the Erie Insurance Group, and $50,000 from State Farm Insurance, which insured the other driver, the indictment said.

He used the insurance money to buy a motorcycle and make down payments on a house and plane, according to the indictment.

Joyce also applied for a private pilot’s license, indicating on his Federal Aviation Administration application that he had no injuries or physical problems, and flew an airplane about 50 times during the period in question, prosecutors say.

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