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Pleasant Hills district judge returns today

| Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005

Pleasant Hills District Judge Mary Grace Boyle, the target of a state investigation, is expected to return to her office today after a still-unexplained 30-day leave.

But she won't start hearing cases again until she gets her office in order.

Under investigation for allegedly using her office for campaign work, Boyle met Monday with Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Joseph M. James to discuss a "breakdown of the administrative function" of her court.

"We discovered some procedural problems that need to be addressed," said district court administrator Raymond Billotte. "The whole goal is, get the backlog of work resolved as quickly as possible."

Billotte described the problems as clerical. Boyle had been holding hearings and making decisions on cases, but wasn't entering information on many cases into court computers that track the cases, Billotte said.

Some cases that should have been closed because defendants couldn't be found were left open with no resolution. Billotte could not provide an exact figure of how many cases were in clerical disarray, but said there were "a lot of open-ended cases."

The problems were discovered when Nancy Galvach, who oversees district judge offices for Billotte, visited Boyle's office to check on operations while Boyle was on extended vacation last month.

James approved Boyle's one-month paid leave Oct. 3 while the state Judicial Conduct Board investigates allegations that she used her office for campaign work before the May primary. Billotte declined to discuss the reason behind her vacation.

James had previously transferred two workers out of Boyle's office because of strained relations over the state investigation.

Senior District Judge Edward Burnett has been filling in for Boyle in her absence and likely will continue hearing cases in her office.

James yesterday ordered Boyle to focus on eliminating the clerical backlog while the senior district judge hears new cases.

Billotte said James' order is "open-ended."

"There's no time limit because we couldn't determine how long it will take to take care of this," he said.

Boyle could not be reached for comment.

Pending investigations by the Judicial Conduct Board are considered confidential. No formal charges have been filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline, which can impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to removal from office.

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