Chester County Common Pleas Court Judge Katherine B.L. Platt ’68 readily confesses that she was no “goodie, goodie” as an Upper School student at Agnes Irwin in the 1960s.
“I had one foot over the line most times,” Platt told the Upper School during the annual Honor Board assembly Tuesday, April 6. She earned a suspension for cutting class (she went to the Bryn Mawr College library to finish a term paper) and a detention for not reporting that a friend was smoking cigarettes in the parking lot.
“Both of those situations pose interesting ethical considerations,” Platt reflected, noting that the ethical challenge she faces as a member of the judiciary is much different, and more consequential — how to always be above reproach.
“In my judicial world, an outright ethical violation would be closing my door and not letting people come in and be heard, would be taking a bribe,” she said. “But what I want to focus on is the appearance of impropriety. In my world, doing something that creates the appearance of impropriety, even if there is nothing actually being done that’s wrong, is an ethical violation.
Platt said she on occasion has to recuse herself from cases because, having been a lawyer for 22 years, she has been friends with attorneys who represent defendants and plaintiffs in Common Pleas Court. In addition, as an elected official, she needed campaign contributions to fund re-election efforts in 2007. Sometimes donors end up having to appear in court as well.
So Platt regularly reminds herself to always avoid the appearance of impropriety. “How is what I’m doing, or not doing, going to be perceived by the people who come in front of me? That’s a daily question,” she said.
Platt graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and received her J.D. degree from Villanova University School of Law.
Her earliest legal experience, while still in law school, was in public interest law. After graduating from law school, she maintained a general law practice concentrating in family law, real estate and commercial lending transactions.
From 1980 to 1993, she served as a Hearing Officer for support cases in the domestic relations division, conducting hearings and deciding spousal and child support cases.
Platt was elected to the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in November 1997, taking her oath of office in January 1998. She initially handled civil and criminal trials and is currently assigned to Family Court and Orphans Court.