In separate complaints, two Republican activists contend that District Judge Guy Reschenthaler is violating judicial ethics rules in seeking a Republican nomination for the state Senate. Mr. Reschenthaler dismisses the complaints as political sniping, noting that he had received an advisory opinion from a judicial ethics panel that his pursuit of the GOP nomination was appropriate. Mr. Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills was elected district judge in 2013. The state Senate seat, covering Jefferson Hills and other southern and western suburbs, opened when former Sen. Matt Smith, a Democrat, resigned in midterm to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. That set the stage for a special election to fill the balance of the term, which will take place at the same time as the November general election.
Because it is a special election, Republican and Democratic party officials will choose their nominees in lieu of the typical primary election process. Normally, under the canons of judicial ethics, a judge would have to resign before becoming a candidate for political office. Jennifer Myers, a district resident, and Michael McMullen, a North Hills GOP activist and former member of the party’s state committee, each said that they had filed formal complaints with the state’s Judicial Conduct Board, charging that Mr. Reschenthaler’s bid for the Senate nomination was an ethics violation.
The district judge contends that because of the special election procedures, he would not technically become a candidate unless and until the GOP officials were to choose him as their nominee. He buttressed that argument with an advisory opinion from the Ethics and Professionalism Committee of the Special Court Judges Association, which he sought anticipating the kind of objections he now faces.