Family Court deal needs independent investigation

Today, the Inquirer criticized Chief Justice Ron Castille's choice to investigate the failed Family Court development deal:

Castille has hired attorney William G. Chadwick, a longtime adviser and colleague, to trace the money. But Chadwick comes with his own conflicts.

He was Castille's top deputy in the 1980s, when the chief justice was the district attorney in Philadelphia. More recently, Castille gave Chadwick a $150,000 no-bid contract last year to determine how to improve the Philadelphia courts, which have come under scrutiny for their low conviction rates.

But will the public trust that Chadwick can conduct an impartial investigation, given his long relationship with Castille; his six-figure contract with the court; and the undisclosed amount he will get to investigate Family Court spending Castille has overseen?

The short answer here is a resounding "no." The problem, though, isn't with Chadwick. It's with with the chief justice. There is no way that any investigation started by Castille will be perceived as independent when its results could reveal mistakes or improprieties by his office.

Fortunately, the FBI has launched a criminal probe. As the Inquirer and the Daily News have both suggested, the state's auditor general or attorney general might want to get involved, too.

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