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Former Allegheny County judge withdraws bid to get law license back

| Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 9:51 p.m.

A former Allegheny County Common Pleas judge who served nearly 19 months in federal prison for extorting money from an attorney is no longer seeking to get his law license back.

Joseph Jaffe, 62, of Dormont filed a 54-page petition in June asking the state's Disciplinary Board to reinstate his law license and a hearing was scheduled for Sept. 20 on the matter. The Supreme Court disbarred him in 2004. Elaine Bixler, secretary for the board confirmed that Jaffe's attorney, Milton Raiford, this week asked to withdraw the petition.

The Disciplinary Board's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the prosecutorial arm of the board, opposed the reinstatement along with at least one former colleague on the bench.

Jaffe did not return a call for comment. Raiford said Jaffe needs to continue growing as a person before he's ready to be reinstated. Jaffe is working for Raiford as a paralegal earning $12.50 an hour.

“I think people are always going to have detractors. That's not the reason,” said Raiford, 57, of Churchill. “What I know from working with Joe every day is that he's going through the same process I did in making himself a whole person. I couldn't honestly say he was ready for that and why go through with it if you're not ready?”

Raiford, who was disbarred from 1994 to 2010 after admitting having an impostor pose as a defendant in a drug possession case, said he knows what Jaffe is going through. Jaffe showed up at Raiford's office at Petra International Ministries in Homewood shortly after he was reinstated two years ago.

“He wasn't embraced by a lot of people. Nobody would hire him. He was like a pariah,” Raiford said. “He's a white Jewish guy, but here he is. I'm not going to reject him. I know what it's like.”

Raiford said he pays Jaffe what his small practice can afford.

“It's humbling for him to see those black people come in the church with all their problems. It's a whole new world for him.”

Jaffe became the first Allegheny County Common Pleas judge to be convicted of a felony when he pleaded guilty to extorting $13,000 in cash from attorney Joel Persky to pay off country club fees, medical bills and other debts. Persky was cooperating with the FBI. At the time, Persky's firm had more than 1,300 asbestos cases pending before Jaffe.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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