On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, the Judicial Conduct Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a complaint against the Magisterial District Judge of the 12th Judicial District Dauphin County, Sonya M. McKnight before the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Sonya M. McKnight,” and was brought by the Judicial Conduct Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with case no. 2 JD 2023.

The charges cited in Code of Judicial Conduct  Canon 1, Rule 1.1,  1.2,  1.3, Canon 2, Rule 2.1, 2.5, 2.11, 2.16, and Article V, 17(b) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which require:

A magisterial district judge shall comply with the law, including the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges.

A magisterial district judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

A magisterial district judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the magisterial district judge or others, or allow others to do so.

The duties of judicial office, as proscribed by law, shall ordinarily take precedence over a magisterial district judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities.

A magisterial district judge shall cooperate with other magisterial district judges and court officials in the administration of court business.

A magisterial district judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the magisterial district judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to the following circumstances: The magisterial district judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer.

A magisterial district judge shall cooperate and be candid and honest with judicial and lawyer disciplinary agencies.

Justices and judges shall not engage in any activity prohibited by law and shall not violate any canon of legal or judicial ethics prescribed by the Supreme Court Justices of the peace shall be governed by rules or canons which shall be prescribed by the Supreme Court.

Judge McKnight finds herself at the center of disciplinary action after facing allegations of serious misconduct. The Judicial Conduct Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has filed a comprehensive complaint outlining a range of alleged violations. The complaint, filed on September 6, 2023, by the Judicial Conduct Board, accuses Judge McKnight of violating various Rules Governing the Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The alleged infractions encompass a wide array of misconduct, raising questions about the judge’s adherence to ethical standards.

Among the key allegations is the accusation of “Theft of Time,” in which Judge McKnight purportedly granted unearned vacation days to her staff, which the Board contends constitutes a form of embezzlement of time. Furthermore, it is alleged that Judge McKnight failed to cooperate fully with disciplinary authorities, providing inconsistent responses when questioned about the extra vacation leave.

The complaint states:

“Sometime in November of 2021, Judge McKnight informed four (4) members of her staff that they could have two (2) vacation days in November and two (2) vacation days in December without utilizing their earned leave.”

The complaint also highlights an incident where it is claimed that Judge McKnight prevented a civil complaint from being processed, potentially obstructing the administration of justice. Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding Judge McKnight’s alleged abuse of her judicial position. She is accused of soliciting sales of a product on her social media page, identified as ‘X-it Red,’ a move that has been characterized as an improper use of her prestige. Judge McKnight’s alleged failure to give precedence to the duties of her judicial office on specific dates without providing an explanation is also noted in the complaint.

The complaint continues:

“On May 5, 2023, Judge McKnight posted on her Facebook page a picture of a product called ‘X-it Red. Underneath the product, Judge McKnight posted, ‘You do not want to miss out on this great business opportunity!!! All I can say is…it works, it’s worth it, So let’s get it. Reach out to me through messenger, phone, or text.”

President Judge John Cherry’s directive regarding Judge McKnight’s involvement in cases with attorney Brian Perry is another aspect under scrutiny. It is claimed that Judge McKnight did not recuse herself from such cases as directed. The complaint further states that Judge McKnight provided dishonest and non-candid answers in response to the Judicial Conduct Board’s investigation, potentially violating ethical standards.

These allegations have far-reaching implications for Judge McKnight’s judicial career. If found guilty, they could result in her suspension, removal from office, or other forms of disciplinary action, as outlined by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The filing of this complaint underscores the gravity of the situation, drawing attention to the need for transparency and accountability within the judiciary.

On January 31, 2023, Sonya M. Mcknight was suspended by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline for misconduct that involved tampering with evidence. The suspension had arisen from her involvement in her son’s traffic stop, where she had allegedly taken possession of items found at the scene by officers. This act had been deemed a misuse of her position in the judiciary, resulting in her suspension for a total of 200 days, with credit given for 190 days already served, and one year of probation.

Judge McKnight’s courtroom is located at 1805 North Cameron Street Harrisburg PA 17103 and can be reached at 717-233-3599. Her info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.