Judicial candidate under scrutiny by ethics board gets OK from bar group

Municipal Court Judge Tom Nocella might not be a favorite at the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, which has filed a lawsuit against him.

But Nocella is being looked upon favorably by the Philadelphia Bar Association, which on Monday gave him its blessing in his pursuit to retain his position. Appointed last December to fill a vacancy, he is one of several candidates vying for four open spots on the court in the May 19 primary, and in its latest round of recommendations, the bar association has formally given its OK.

Nocella is an ally of former City Councilwoman Carol Campbell, who was also secretary of the Democratic City Committee. Consequently, it was no surprise that Nocella performed considerable legal work for the party, for free.

But that's not why the ethics board is mad.

What has upset the board is that it believes Nocella intentionally helped empty the campaign account of a PAC  - the Appreciation Fund - that the board levvied a $39,000 fine against. Nocella represented the PAC, which now has almost no money left to pay the fine. The board is in court in an effort to get him, and another person with ties to the PAC, Ernest DeNofa, to pay from their own wallets.

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