Dauphin County judge gets suspended without pay over ethics violations

November 21 – Judge Sonia McKnight is out of work without pay because she has been brought up on misconduct allegations. 

McKnight is a Dauphin County, PA, Magisterial District Judge.

At the end of September, ethics violations were filed against Judge McKnight for a host of questionable actions, including giving her staff extra vacation hours, unpaid loans, asking for copies of police reports as “favors,” ignoring directives from other judges, failing to recuse herself from specific cases, promoting products to sell in her official judicial capacity, and failure to appear for her assigned duty at night court. 

All told, there are 20 counts under nine different charges. 

The PA Judicial Conduct Board decided to suspend her without pay. 

This is the second time in a little more than two years that Judge McKnight has been suspended without pay. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “She’s had quite a track record here the past few years of problems. Now we should say she’s a magistrate judge. She is not an attorney. Of course as we know, these are elected officials. They run every six years. There have been some other problems she’s had. There was something involving her son and a traffic ticket a few years ago where she allegedly got involved in an inappropriate way. Even though she’s a magistrate judge and she’s not an attorney because she’s a member of what’s called the minor judiciary. The state judicial conduct board has oversight and jurisdiction over these judges. So to be suspended without pay is a pretty extraordinary measure. It remains to be seen what else might happen here. It sounds like there are still ongoing investigations.”

It could be possible that the board might recommend she be removed from office. 

Barkdoll pointed out, “It’s tricky because again, she is an elected official. We should say she’s fighting all of this. Historically, she has denied all of these allegations against her, but she has a magistrate seat in the city of Harrisburg.”