The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has split 3-3 on whether Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley should continue to preside over the appeal of hip-hop star Meek Mill, who has publicly butted heads with the judge. With the court evenly divided Brinkley is now set to preside over the rapper’s post-conviction appeal hearing scheduled for June 18.
The rapper, whose real name is Robert Williams, has pushed to have Brinkley disqualified from his case ever since she gave him a lengthy prison sentence for a probation violation, despite the fact that neither prosecutors, nor Williams’ probation officer, had requested prison time.
Williams’ request was the second direct appeal to come over the past three months. Although the first request was successful, with the high court ordering that the hip-hop star be immediately released on bail, the justices entered an order Tuesday morning indicating the court was evenly split on whether Brinkley should be disqualified from handling Williams’ appeal.
According to the order, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor and Justices Sallie Mundy and David Wecht voted to deny Williams’ petition. Justice Max Baer, however, issued a dissenting opinion, saying he would have granted Williams’ request.
“I believe Judge Genece Brinkley should have disqualified herself,” Baer said.
Justices Debra Todd and Christine Donohue joined Baer’s statement.
The order noted that Justice Kevin Dougherty, who formerly served as Philadelphia’s administrative judge, did not participate in the matter.
The legal team for the rapper filed an emergency King’s Bench petition with the Supreme Court late June 1, saying Brinkley’s recent activity, including having a private attorney make public statements about the case and filing lawsuits claiming she suffered potentially disabling injuries, should disqualify her from handling his appeal.
The 27-page brief to the high court, which Reed Smith attorney Kim Watterson filed, asks that the case be transferred to Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper.
Williams is set to have an evidentiary hearing before Brinkley on June 18 regarding his post-conviction appeal.
His appeal focuses on credibility concerns that have recently emerged regarding Philadelphia Police Officer Reginald Graham, who was the only witness to testify at Williams’ 2008 trial. According to several attorneys involved, about 250 to 300 post-conviction appeals have been filed in recent months over testimony Graham has provided, and most of those appeals were transferred with little fanfare to Woods-Skipper.
Recently, Williams’ legal team brought their efforts to have Brinkley disqualified to a supervising judge in Philadelphia, but those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. After a nearly hour-long hearing in early June, Philadelphia Judge Leon Tucker, who is the supervising judge of Philadelphia’s criminal courts, denied Williams’ motion to have Brinkley removed, saying he did not have jurisdiction to remove fellow trial judges from their cases.
Counsel for Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.