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July 16, 2009

Philadelphia Bar Association Calls on Judge Berry to Resign

Note: Chancellor Sayde Ladov is available for interviews or comment on this topic.

Calling his conduct “a violation of the public trust,” the Philadelphia Bar Association has sent a letter to Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. asking him to now resign as a judge of Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, saying it is the “only appropriate response … to help restore public confidence in the judiciary.”

“Judge Berry’s continued presence in office undermines public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and ultimately negatively impacts our entire system of justice,” says Sayde Ladov, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, which represents more than 13,000 members across Philadelphia. “We ask Judge Berry to consider the undisputed facts of his case, the negative ramifications on public perception, and his violation of the public trust. Resignation is the only appropriate response that he can personally make to help restore public confidence in the judiciary.”

On June 26, the Court of Judicial Discipline ruled that Judge Berry violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaging in conduct that has brought the judicial office into disrepute. The Court found that for more than a decade, Judge Berry operated a private real estate business out of his judicial chambers, utilizing taxpayer resources and failing to comply with various building and safety codes. Late yesterday, the Court issued its sanctions, suspending Judge Berry for four months without pay beginning August 15.

“A fair and independent judiciary is one of the bedrocks of our democracy,” adds Ladov. “When a judge engages in conduct that disgraces the office, we have a responsibility to speak out and condemn those actions.

“However, we also want the public to recognize that reprehensible actions by a few judges should never diminish the hard work and ethical conduct of the hundreds of dedicated men and women who serve as judges across the Commonwealth.”

Founded in 1802, the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association is America’s first chartered metropolitan bar association and the largest in Pennsylvania.
Attorneys, judges and politicians look to the Philadelphia Bar Association for guidance on controversial legal issues and as an organized meeting ground for professional support and information sharing. The Philadelphia Bar Association also provides help and general information on legal issues to members of the general public.

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