The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Anne Marie Coyle will retain her seat on the bench after being re-elected on November 7, despite facing a judicial conduct complaint earlier this year.
Judge Coyle was first elected to the Common Pleas Court in 2013 and was seeking her second 10-year term. She was one of 11 Common Pleas Court judges who were up for “retention elections” this year, where judges run unopposed to keep their seats.
However, Judge Coyle was the only one of the 11 judges who was rated “not recommended” for retention by the Philadelphia Bar Association due to a complaint filed against her in February by the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
The complaint accuses Judge Coyle of biased and improper handling of a criminal case. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Judge Coyle threatened both the prosecutor and defense attorney with contempt of court charges, attempted to coerce the public defender into withdrawing from the case, and improperly offered the defendant leniency if he dropped his request for the judge to recuse herself due to perceived bias.
The complaint centers around Judge Coyle’s sentencing of Johnny Colon, which was detailed in a 2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer investigation. Judge Coyle had sentenced Colon to 5.5 to 14 years in prison as a probation violation, but the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned the punishment, finding Colon’s constitutional rights had been violated. The Superior Court also expressed concerns about Judge Coyle’s possible biases in the case.
Judge Coyle’s alleged actions in the Colon case are not isolated incidents. The Superior Court has criticized her apparent bias or abuse of discretion in at least five previous opinions dating back to 2018. However, despite this ongoing pattern of criticism and the recent judicial conduct complaint, Philadelphia voters chose to retain Judge Coyle for another term. It remains to be seen whether the complaint against her will result in any disciplinary action going forward.
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer