PITTSBURGH — Rolf Larsen, a state Supreme Court justice who was removed from office and later impeached following a conspiracy conviction, has died. He was 79.
Larsen’s longtime friend and fellow attorney, John Tumolo, said today that Larsen died Monday of lung cancer at a Pittsburgh nursing home.
The Pittsburgh Democrat was removed from the bench in 1994 because of a conviction of conspiring to accept mood-altering drugs in the names of his employees to hide a history of mental illness.
Larsen became the only Supreme Court justice to be impeached later that same year, when he was convicted by the state Senate of voting on whether to hear cases based on input from an attorney who was also a political supporter. The Senate cleared him on six other charges, including those involving the drug purchases and accusations of lying to a grand jury and making false allegations against other justices.
“Even at the most difficult hour of his life, he never lost his sense of humor,” said attorney William Costopoulos, who defended Larsen at his criminal trial, in Senate impeachment hearings and before the Judicial Conduct Board. “He never lost his compassion for his fellow man.”
Tumolo said Larsen instituted the current practice of having jurors serve for one day or one trial when he was still an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge. Before that potential jurors returned to court for several days in a row to see if they would be selected.
He also began the practice of enforcing court orders against parents who didn’t pay child support, Tumolo said.
On the high court, Larsen authored opinions upholding the state’s death penalty, drunken driving law and mandatory jail terms for armed felonies. He also issued opinions upholding the implied warranty that residential dwellings are habitable when sold and another governing how child and spousal support was calculated, Tumolo said.