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The state Supreme Court issued an order Friday suspending from duty Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce, who was indicted last week on federal mail fraud and money-laundering charges. “In view of the compelling and immediate need to protect and preserve the integrity of the Unified Judicial System and the administration of justice for the citizens of this commonwealth, the Honorable Michael Thomas Joyce is hereby relieved of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania,” the two-page per curiam order says. According to the order, Joyce will not suffer a reduction or suspension of his salary or benefits. The order also says Joyce can appeal the suspension. Joyce’s attorney, David Ridge, of Ridge & McLaughlin in Erie, Pa., was not available for comment Friday afternoon. In a statement Friday, Joyce said he expected the court to suspend him and agrees that it is the appropriate course of action to protect the court’s integrity. Joyce also said he has no plans to appeal the order. “I’m disappointed in the grand jury’s decision, but I am more confident that when the facts are laid out, it will be clear that these charges have no merit,” he said in a statement Thursday, responding to the indictment. Joyce, 58, of Erie, was charged with mail fraud and money-laundering in connection with $440,000 in insurance settlements he received after his state-leased Mercedes Benz was rear-ended in Millcreek Township, Pa., in 2001. The accident occurred at about 5 mph and no police or medical personnel were called to the scene, prosecutors said. “The bodily injury he says he sustained we believe was fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said. 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 pay down a personal line of credit. Joyce was first elected in 1997 after serving 12 years as an Erie County Common Pleas Court judge. He faces voters in a retention election for a second 10-year term this November. The indictment could also result in action by the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board. Joseph A. Massa, chief counsel of the Judicial Conduct Board, said the state constitution allows the board to petition the state Court of Judicial Discipline for the suspension – with or without pay – of any judge who is the subject of a felony indictment. Massa said Thursday morning that he and the board were monitoring the situation, but had reached no decision whether to file a petition. Pennsylvania political gurus said last week it’s unclear whether the indictment will torpedo Joyce’s retention bid. “Can he slide under the radar and get another 10 years? No one knows that answer to that,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Policy at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. Joyce will have to decide for himself whether he is politically viable, Madonna said. He added that the electorate tends to group all judges together. “This obviously doesn’t do the cause of the judges and justices seeking retention any good. I don’t think it damages irreparably the cause of judges not involved,” he said. The indictment could create an atmosphere like that surrounding the 2005 legislative and judicial pay raise affair, when former Justice Russell M. Nigro lost his retention bid, experts said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were pressure on him to step down from the retention race,” said Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. The state Judicial Evaluation Commission in June recommended Joyce for retention while acknowledging media reports that he was the subject of a federal investigation. Now, commission Chairman Chris Gillotti said the commission is arranging to reconvene to reconsider its recommendation. “Our recommendation was based on the existence of the grand jury. This is another fact and we can’t ignore that fact. We have to come back and revisit it,” Gillotti said. Gillotti said he wouldn’t speculate on what the commission is likely to decide, or even how he would vote. “We’ve never had this sort of a situation. We’ve never previously changed a recommendation. Certainly we would have the authority to make a change,” Gillotti said.

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