The Judicial Conduct Board’s chief counsel, Robert Graci, is retiring from the agency, which has now begun searching for his replacement.
Graci, 66, said it was time to hang up his hat after 27 years as a lawyer for the state, the last six of which have been at the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. A job listing advertising a vacancy for the $130,000- to $168,000-per-year chief counsel position recently appeared on the website of the board, which is tasked with investigating allegations of unethical behavior in the state’s judiciary.
Graci said age was the primary factor in his decision to retire and cited the need to have more control over his time so that he can spend more of it with his wife, children and grandchildren.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a very wonderful career, to do some things that I never thought I would have the chance to do,” like arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Graci said.
While Graci said he was unclear about what’s next, he intends to stay at least somewhat busy.
“I don’t have any immediate plans. I love being a lawyer … I think I’ll always be a lawyer, but the first decision I had to make was that it was time to retire,” he said.
A former deputy attorney general and later a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, Graci was hired in 2012 to replace outgoing JCB chief counsel Joseph Massa. At the time, the aftershocks of the “kids-for-cash” judicial scandal still strongly resonated in the JCB due to criticism of its handling of early complaints about the judges who perpetrated the kickback scheme.
Graci told The Legal soon after joining the JCB that the board was still in the midst of considering many of the recommendations made by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Professional Discipline in a 56-page report it issued on Pennsylvania’s judicial conduct system in June 2011.
Several of the ABA’s recommendations called for increased transparency with regard to how the JCB handles complaints.
Previously, the chief counsel had the power to decide whether an anonymous complaint should be investigated, a policy that came under fire while the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice held hearings to probe the causes of the “kids-for-cash” scandal.
The commission learned that it took nearly seven-and-a-half months for Massa to notify members of a September 2006 anonymous complaint filed against former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan that detailed allegations of case-fixing, mob ties and the improper placement of juveniles in a privately owned juvenile detention facility.
Upon joining the board, Graci said he wanted to improve the public’s understanding of how the JCB operates and the purpose it serves in the legal community.
“When people come up to me, knowledgeable people, and say, ‘What does the JCB do and how does it work?’—if that’s an aspect of transparency, and I believe it is—that’s something we have to work on,” Graci told The Legal at the time.
While Graci joined the JCB on the heels of the Luzerne County scandal, his tenure with the board witnessed several other judicial fiascoes. But perhaps the most notable was the “Porngate” scandal, involving state officials sending pornographic and offensive emails to each other, which ended the careers of two Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices: J. Michael Eakin and Seamus P. McCaffery, who stepped down amid the scandal.
Graci himself was touched by the Porngate debacle when it was learned that Graci had performed work on Eakin’s 2011 retention campaign. Graci ultimately stepped away from the investigation.