AP NEWS

Scranton Man Sentenced To Probation For Illegally Practicing Law

January 2, 2019

SCRANTON — A city man convicted of practicing law without a license was sentenced today to two years of probation and ordered pay $1,000 in restitution to one of his victims.

Joseph Pilchesky,69, is well known for filing multiple lawsuits that challenge actions of Lackawanna County officials and for hosting a website that purports to expose political corruption. Authorities say he crossed the line in 2013, when he accepted money from three people to assist them in civil cases.

Prosecutors said he took $3,000 from a woman for a custody battle; $1,000 from a woman who sued her former employer for severance pay and $500 from a man who sued an assisted living facility to recoup money an employee stole.

Pilchesky, who represented himself at his October trial before Lackawanna County Judge James Gibbons, argued his actions did not constitute a crime because he did not seek the people out and was merely trying to help them because they had nowhere else to turn. A jury disagreed and convicted him of three counts of unauthorized practice of law.

At sentencing, Senior Deputy Attorney General Bernard Anderson agreed Pilchesky’s victims felt they had nowhere else to turn. He said Pilchesky’s motives were not altruistic, however, but financial.

“They were taken advantage of by someone who saw an opportunity,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day, it was about money.”

Pilchesky objected to that characterization. He said the people sought him out because he could use his “political power” to overcome corruption he contends they faced in the judicial system.

“Anyone who ever came to me for help, I helped them,” he said.

Gibbons said he understands Pilchesky disagrees with the law that makes his actions a crime. That does not excuse his conduct, however.

“We are not here, Mr. Pilchesky, because of political corruption,” Gibbons said. “We are here because a jury determined you engaged in the practice of law.”

While he admonished him for his actions, Gibbons noted Pilchesky is well versed in the law. His legal prowess is partly responsible for the five-year delay in resolving the case because he filed multiple appeals of pre-trial rulings.

“If you had taken the time or would take the time to go to law school, you’d probably be a very effective lawyer,” Gibbons said. “You are a smart man ... but sometimes you are too smart for your own good.”

Noting Pilchesky has no remorse, Anderson asked Gibbons to sentence Pilchesky to three weeks in prison to “send him a message.”

Gibbons rejected the request, citing Pilchesky’s health and his belief that a prison sentence would not alter Pilchesky’s view that he is “some sort of white knight.” He warned Pilchesky he will be jailed if he recommits the crime.

In addition to the probation sentence, Gibbons ordered Pilchesky to pay $1,000 in restitution to the one victim, who was the only one to file a victim impact statement.

Speaking after the hearing, Pilchesky said he believed Gibbons was fair. He said he plans to appeal his conviction.

Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter