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The Dobbs Wire: Rogue judge driven off the bench

[The Dobbs Wire email – 12/25/18]

A Pittsburgh criminal court judge has finally submitted her resignation. Judge Donna Jo McDaniel’s expected exit comes after repeated rebukes by a Pennsylvania appeals court, extensive news coverage, the ire of at least one editorial board, and talk of an investigation by the state’s judicial conduct commission. First elected to the bench in 1985, McDaniel was driven from office for failing to deliver fair and impartial justice – treating individuals charged with sex offenses (and their defense counsel) terribly, imposing excessive sentences and repeatedly abusing her discretion. McDaniel’s departure is a victory for reason and justice, even more so given the prevailing moral panic over sex offenses that makes getting a fair shake in court very difficult. Kudos to all those who fought McDaniel’s biased rulings including the Allegheny County Public Defender, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for keeping a spotlight on McDaniel. Details are below – news stories, a Post-Gazette editorial describing McDaniel as a “rogue judge,” a smart essay by Alexandra Stupple about “disgust” in court matters, and a compilation of headlines. Have a look! –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire

Here are the original articles:

[ – 11/28/18]

Superior Court removes Allegheny County judge from sex offender’s resentencing

The state Superior Court, in a rare move Wednesday, ordered Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel to be removed from a case, finding that there was “substantial evidence” that she “demonstrated bias and personal animus” against both the defendant and the public defender’s office representing him.

The three judge panel of the appellate court wrote a blistering 13page opinion that also ordered that Anthony McCauley be sentenced again by a new judge. It is one of a series of opinions by the Superior Court dating to January 2017 in which Judge McDaniel has been questioned for her sentencing of sex offenders.

“The trial court’s animus and hostility to appellant’s counsel and the [Allegheny County] Public Defender’s office appears to be deep, unwavering and demonstrates an unjustified bias against the Public Defender’s office,” wrote Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow.

Read the full article


[ – 12/2/18]

Overruled once again: Judge McDaniel should face sanctions for bias

The state Superior Court repeatedly reminded her to hew to sentencing guidelines, but Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel continued meting out punishments to sex offenders as she saw fit.

Now, the appellate court has kicked her off of a case and ordered that the defendant, Anthony McCauley, be resentenced by a judge who will follow the law. That ought to be just the start. Judge McDaniel should be barred from hearing any sex crimes cases at this point, and her unprofessional conduct warrants sanctions from the state Court of Judicial Discipline.

No one likes sex offenders. They are vile. However, Judge McDaniel must impose sentences consistent with the law, not tack on extra years just for spite, deny defendants their rights, harass defense attorneys for doing their jobs or thumb her nose at the appellate judges who order her to knock it off.

Read the full article

[National Lawyers Guild Review – Fall 2014] Disgust, Dehumanization, and the Courts’ Response to Sex Offender Legislation

By Alexandra Stupple

Sex offenders have been subject to unprecedented restrictions and punishment. The government’s treatment of sex offenders is a clear example of the dangers of laws derived from and upheld because of the emotion of disgust. Disgust has led to a dehumanization of this category of people, which has led to a stripping of their constitutional rights. The law’s treatment of sex offenders is a clear example of why the law should eschew employing the emotion of disgust during all proceedings. In addition, the courts’, particularly the Supreme Court’s, treatment of the other branches’ actions regarding sex offenders is illustrative of why the law needs to insist upon empirical data in support of legislation and why the courts should not always defer to the other branches’ findings.

Download the full article


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2018 headlines about Judge McDaniel:

Superior Court sends another sex offender case back for resentencing, removes Judge Donna Jo McDaniel
Allegheny County judge resigns after being removed from sex offender cases
Superior Court removes Allegheny County judge from another sex offender case
Editorial: Overruled once again: Judge McDaniel should face sanctions for bias
Superior Court removes Allegheny County judge from sex offender’s resentencing
Allegheny County judge ordered removed by Superior Court from sex offender case recuses
Pa. Superior Court panel criticizes Pittsburgh judge as ‘defiant’
Editorial: A judge off track: McDaniel overreaches on rulings on sex offenders
Prosecutor, defense want judge pulled from rape case


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Geez what a bitter old hag cut from the same cloth as Sharon Runner. The two will get along great one day.

Great to see some justice in the justice system. It really appears the public opinion on those on the registry is shifting. I guess as our numbers approach 1 million everybody knows somebody on the registry, and most of us are decent people. There is no place for bitter, vindictive judges like Donna Jo McDaniels with their personal spiteful agenda doling out excessive punishment.

One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.

I agree bad apple will do that! Look at John Walsh how he used his child,s murder to line his pocket and push useless laws. My feelings on Walsh is that his dumb wife is at fault for not watching the kid. If that is what happen! But that story is very very strange.taking a kid out of huge store with out anyone seeing something. Sends red flags to me. The whole Walsh thing just don’t make any sense.But it does make sense if you want to get laws passed. Funny how his kid got maybe killed But Walsh got the government to pass laws on sex offenders but no laws on any child killers.To me John Walsh is a crook who is robbing people

This Walsh things bugs me, as well, it seems like the old man was a major player in his son’s death and doing good job covering his tracks.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x