On Tuesday, January 31, 2023, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline suspended Hon. Sonya M. Mcknight, a Magisterial District Judge of the Magisterial District Court 12-2-04 of Dauphin County, for misconduct that involves tampering with evidence.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Sonya M. Mcknight” and was brought by the Office of the Attorney General with case no. 1 JD 21.

On September 13, 2022, in an Opinion and Order, by the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline, it was stated that the respondent was found in violation of several rules of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges mainly for her interactions with the Harrisburg Police concerning the arrest of her son. The respondent was charged with Tampering with Evidence, Obstructing the Administration of Law, and Official Oppression.

The filing states:

“On the evening of February 22, 2020, she met with her son Kevin. Kevin was in a very dark mood.” Kevin has a history of drug abuse and was very emotional. Several hours later she received a call from Kevin that the Harrisburg Police had stopped him for a traffic violation and that he was with them at 6th and Peffer Streets. She rushed out of her house in her pajamas to go to 6h and Peffer Streets. On the way there she called Harrisburg Police Commissioner Carter, a longtime friend of hers, and told him of the police stop of her son. Commissioner Carter asked if she was going as a mother or as a judge. . She replied that she was going as a mother, which she repeated to a police officer at the scene of the stop. She testified that she went to the scene out of fear that her son was so depressed that he might commit some act to provoke the police.”

The filing continues:

“After speaking with Kingsboro, Respondent returned to the driver’s side of Baltimore’s vehicle where she walked into the midst of the officers and seated herself in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. (Joint Exhibits 3, page 91:2- 9; page 203:13-15.) While at the scene of the traffic stop, Respondent took possession of the following items found at the scene by the officers: some cash, an orange pill bottle, a credit card, and keys to Baltimore’s vehicle. (Joint Exhibit 3, page 165:6-12; page 166:13-16: page 204:5-11; page 240:6-8.) Moments after Respondent climbed out the Baltimore’s vehicle, Baltimore was placed in a police transport van and transported to the county booking center and Respondent left the scene. (Joint Exhibit 1, Video recording of February 22, 2020, traffic stop, 12:05 minutes.)”

The filing further states:

“At approximately 10 a.m. that same morning, Respondent called Commissioner Carter again. Carter missed the call and shortly thereafter returned the Respondent’s call. (Joint Exhibit 3, page 218:13-23.) Respondent informed Carter that she had received information or complaints that people were being stopped illegally in the area where her son’s trafic stop had occurred. (Joint Exhibit 3, page 243:13-15.)”

According to the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline on its initial Order, the respondent abused the prestige of her office to advance her personal interests. Her conduct to contact the authority about her son’s situation was clearly for her own purposes and was a misuse of her position in the judiciary. The respondent was then found guilty of misconduct. She was suspended then for a period of 190 days. But as her sanction, the court Ordered 200 days with credit given to the 190 days she already served.

The Disposition states:

“Magisterial District Judge McKnight was suspended without pay from February 9, 2021, until August 18, 2021, a period of 190 days. As her sanction, the Court of Judicial Discipline ORDERS that Magisterial District Judge McKnight is suspended without pay for 200 days with credit given to her for the 190 days she has already served. The ten remaining days Magisterial District Judge Mcknight is to be suspended without pay will commence on February 9, 2023. Additionally, Magisterial District Judge McKnight will serve one year on probation starting on the date of this ORDER. A specific condition of this probation is that Magisterial District Judge McKnight not commit any more ethical violations of any nature.”

Ms. Mcknigh’s courtroom is located at 2125 Paxton Church Rd, Harrisburg, PA 17110, and can be reached at +1 717-545-4143. Her info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.