By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — A former Allegheny County judge was removed from office and barred from serving on the bench last month, after he was convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting two women in his chambers.
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline, which hears official complaints against judges who violate the state constitution and judicial code, said former Magistrate Judge Ross Cioppa used his position to engage in a “tawdry, coercive pursuit of sexual liberties,” which included kissing and embracing two women who appeared before his bench. On both occasions, he promised to rule in favor of the women, if they went along with his advances, according to court documents.
“It is not open to question that (Cioppa’s) conduct was intended to affect a specific outcome — he promised that it would,” the board concluded, adding that the judge’s actions prejudiced the proper administration of justice.
Cioppa told one of the victims that no one would believe her if she complained, because he was a judge and was “well known out here,” according to court documents.
Cioppa pled guilty to two counts of misdemeanor indecent assault and two counts of misdemeanor official oppression in return for having felony bribery charges withdrawn in court earlier this year. Common Pleas Judge Jill Rangos sentenced Cioppa in April to six months of house arrest and four years of probation, which he began serving that month, according to court documents.
He resigned from the bench in December 2011 after being charged. He had served on the court since June 1999.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board reviewed more than 700 complaints — including the one of both women against Cioppa — during 2011, and filed formal charges against eight judges with the Court of Judicial Discipline.