Dawn Segal recommended for reinstatement by state board

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Dawn A. Segal, a former judge who was disbarred due to improper conversations with another judge, has been recommended for reinstatement as an attorney by the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.

On April 13, in a 41-page report, 11 of the board’s 12 members recommended to the state Supreme Court that Segal be reinstated to the bar. One board member, John C. Rafferty Jr., dissented from the board’s recommendation, stating that Segal’s wrongdoing was too serious for reinstatement.

The high court typically follows the recommendations of the board but isn’t expected to issue a ruling until later this spring or early summer.

Segal, an out lesbian, was suspended from the bar in May 2019 due to misconduct that occurred in 2011-2012 while she served as a Philadelphia Municipal Court judge. As a new judge, Segal had several improper phone conversations with another judge, Joseph C. Waters Jr., about three cases pending before her. 

In November 2017, the state Supreme Court permanently barred Segal from holding judicial office due to her misconduct.

The disciplinary board’s report was in sharp contrast to a blistering advisory-panel report issued in November 2020 that recommended against Segal’s reinstatement. The panel questioned Segal’s credibility and legal acumen. Attorneys Katherine C. Douglas, Christopher M. Fox and Debra A. Jensen served on the advisory panel. They had no comment for this update.

In its April 13 report, the disciplinary board noted that Segal should have rejected Waters’ calls, recused herself from the three cases they discussed, reported Waters’ wrongdoing to authorities and not allowed Waters to believe his calls influenced her.

But the disciplinary board also said Segal has shown genuine contrition. During her August 2020 testimony to the advisory panel, Segal admitted at least 14 times that she was wrong in her conduct, the disciplinary board noted. 

“By all accounts, [Segal] acknowledged her bad acts, accepted full responsibility for her wrongdoing, and is genuinely contrite,” the disciplinary board asserted.

The disciplinary board added: “Segal made clear that the harm to her personally from her actions was only what she deserved and not nearly as significant as the discredit and questioning of the ethics and integrity of her former colleagues on the bench, which is where her remorse lies.”

Segal provided numerous witnesses to the advisory panel who testified to her good character and reputation in the community, according to the board.

Additionally, Segal showed her rehabilitation through her commitment to community service, including volunteering at Women Organized Against Rape and Habitat for Humanity, the board added.

Since May 2019, Segal has been working as a paralegal at Ostroff Law Firm in Blue Bell, Pa., where she received glowing reviews by co-workers. “[Segal] established by clear and convincing evidence that she is competent and learned in the law,” the disciplinary board stated.

The disciplinary board also pointed out that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel doesn’t oppose Segal’s reinstatement. “We find it compelling that the prosecutor’s office who obtained [Segal’s] suspension and investigated her readmission does not object to her resumption of the practice of law,” the board said.

“[Segal] has demonstrated clearly and convincingly that she is fit to practice law,” the board concluded.

John C. Rafferty Jr., the lone dissenting board member, wrote: “I recognize the testimonial of [Segal’s] legal abilities presented on her behalf since [Segal’s] removal as a judge. As a judge, an individual is charged with a fair administration of justice; all parties being equal in treatment in our courts. [Segal] perverted her duty as a judge. I believe [Segal’s] activities as a judge, before being caught by the authorities and removed as a judge, is too aggravating a factor for her reinstatement to the practice of law.”

An attorney for Segal had no comment for this update.