(Editor's note: Judge McCaffery declined to answer the questions posed to him by The Legal Intelligencer. Instead, he sent us the note below in an email. We have decided to print the response.)
I am wholly and unshakably committed to the principle and practice of judicial independence. I take very seriously the oath of office which I pledged when I took the bench, and I understand that I was elected to be completely impartial, fair and neutral - with respect both to litigants themselves and to the outcomes of cases. As a judge, I do my level best every single day to render unbiased decisions based upon concepts of equal protection of the law, and not on popular sentiment or personal stake or belief. Furthermore, I am constantly vigilant about refraining from any and all actions which could call or appear to call my integrity or impartiality into question. If I have any interest, however remote, in the outcome of a case, any possible connection to any of the parties, or personal knowledge of the facts in dispute, I disclose these circumstances openly, on the record, and explicitly. If any doubt whatsoever remains either in my mind or in the litigants' minds regarding my ability to base a decision solely on the applicable laws and facts of the case - as opposed to self-interest or bias - recusal is a tool which I willingly use to disqualify myself from a case. I believe it is one of the key structural mechanisms available to implement judicial independence, and in a very visible way.
Having set forth my fundamental belief in judicial independence, upon which I stake my reputation, I must respectfully decline to answer the individual questions posed by The Legal Intelligencer in the questionnaire. In fact, my declination is a reflection of how important I believe it is to maintain my judicial independence.
There are 32 questions posed in your questionnaire, some of which are exceptionally broad, and some of which are issue-oriented and quite specific.
I believe that answering the questions individually in a substantive, thoughtful and reflective way would compromise my commitment to judicial independence and would dilute my consistent philosophy of refusing to respond to special interests. In addition, some of the questions posed raise issues that clearly could come before me either in my capacity as a sitting Superior Court judge, or if I am successful in my effort to be elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Rather, I will rely on the fact that my judicial philosophy, my background, my views, and what I bring to the judicial table comprise quite an open book, as I have been a part of the legal community, in a wide variety of capacities, for nearly 30 years. I have been a trial judge, an administrative judge and an appellate court judge for a combined 14 years. I have an extensive body of written work which reflects my legal acumen, my judicial philosophy, and my background, that of an immigrant who has devoted 39 years of my life to public service: to Philadelphia, as a law enforcement officer; to Pennsylvania as a judge; and to the United States as a Marine and now an Air Force Colonel. In addition, both my written work and the numerous innovative programs, such as Eagles Court and Nuisance Night Court, which I have created and implemented over the course of my judicial career, reflect the practicality and common sense nature of my approach to the law, and my ability to combine all of the foregoing into qualitatively excellent judicial opinions and programs.
I am confident that the readers of The Legal Intelligencer, primarily attorneys and members of related professions, have a wealth of information about me that provides them with an educated basis upon which to judge my qualifications to be a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. I do feel that the general public has some unfortunately distorted views of and misperceptions about judges in general, and the role of the judiciary in specific. Sadly, citizens perceive judges as either remote, reclusive figures or as the caricatured, dramatized judges on TV and in film. I believe that these skewed images of judges result in citizens having a poor understanding of the judicial process and the role of judges. We all need to be more open and informative about the role of the judiciary and the ways that role differs fundamentally from that of elected representatives in the legislative and executive branches. I believe that judges should increase dialogue and engage in much greater contact with the public in a variety of settings, not simply from the bench. I have made efforts for years to address the above concerns. I have spoken to hundreds of community groups, neighborhood and townwatch organizations, and to professional associations, in an effort to educate the public about judges and the role of the judiciary, and to make the concept of "judges" real to our citizens. I have been interviewed on countless radio and television shows, both local and national, and interviewed by newspapers literally across the country. I believe that all of the above has provided your readership particularly with the ability to assess me based on my background, my broad-based experience as a trial, administrative and appellate court judge, and on what they know about me, including my service in law enforcement, my experience as an attorney, and my service to my country. I respectfully ask them to do just that. <