The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

August 27, 2007

Ousted judge takes job as guard at prison

HARRISBURG — A former Cambria County district judge who was removed from office for inappropriate conduct has a new job in another corner of the criminal justice system – as a prison guard.

Allan C. Berkhimer, who presided over the Salix court from 1988 until the state Court of Judicial Discipline ousted him in June 2005, is an entry-level guard at SCI-Somerset, a Corrections Department spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

Berkhimer was hired at the medium-security prison in March 2006 as a corrections officer trainee, according to the department. He currently makes $15.72 an hour, which works out to less than half the $67,000 salary he was making when he was removed as a district judge.

Berkhimer did not respond to a telephone message left at the prison, where officials said he was scheduled to work Monday.

The state Judicial Conduct Board, which prosecuted the misconduct charges, said Berkhimer routinely used vulgar and sexually suggestive language in conversations with women who worked for him.

On several occasions, he summoned them into his office to show them computer images of naked women, the board said.

The board also said Berkhimer improperly instructed his staff to mail congratulatory notes to constituents whose accomplishments were publicized by local newspapers at a time he was running for re-election.

Berkhimer blamed sleep apnea – a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep – for the actions that prompted his removal.

Last week, the state Supreme Court upheld the disciplinary court’s decision.

By the time the Court of Judicial Discipline voted to remove him, Berkhimer had lost bids for both the Republican and Democratic nominations for another term.

It was the second time Berkhimer had been disciplined for misconduct. In 2003, the disciplinary court reprimanded him for trying to influence the outcome of a case by contacting the arresting police officer.

In removing him from the bench, the court cited the reprimand, the nature of the latest allegations, a lack of remorse on the part of Berkhimer and his refusal to cooperate with investigators.

Berkhimer has a background in prison employment, having served as a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution-Loretto and at Cambria County Prison before running for magistrate in 1987.

He also served as Summerhill Borough mayor, and his years as a police officer included the chief’s position in Sankertown Borough from 1979-84.

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