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Judicial Review Board Recommends Dismissal Of Judge

March 3, 1987

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A majority of the state’s judicial-conduct board has recommended dismissal of a rural judge accused of distributing religious materials in his courtroom and suggesting exorcism for a troublesome child.

In a report scheduled to reach the state Supreme Court today, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board found that Common Pleas Judge Harold B. Fink violated seven judicial tenets, said the board’s executive director, Robert Keuch.

Seven members recommended dismissal and the remaining two favored two years’ suspension without pay, Keuch said Monday. The high court is not bound by the board’s recommendations.

The report says Potter County’s lone judge abused his criminal contempt powers, improperly communicated with litigants, criticized the state Supreme Court and tried to deceive the inquiry board, according to Keuch.

The board also found that Fink injected religion into the courtroom, exhibiting religious bias in decisions, distributing religious materials and hugging two fellow Christians in court, Keuch said.

Fink, who was removed from decision-making duties in July by Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr., said Monday he disputes at least 60 points in the report.

″They tell you half of the story and they tell it in a slanted manner,″ he said.

Fink acknowledged hugging two Christian defendants but said the embraces came after he handed them stiff sentences. He said he did not tell a couple their son should be exorcised, only that they should see a Roman Catholic priest who was an expert in exorcism.

″People said the boy involved was known to go upstairs and raise an animal-like shriek that would raise the hackles of those who heard it,″ Fink said.

District Attorney Jeff Leber, who filed the original complaint in 1984, said Fink had tried to influence his office’s handling of at least one case and had threatened attorneys with contempt for questioning his impartiality.

Fink has 30 days to give the state Supreme Court his objections to the report, Keuch said.

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