PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania's highest court won't remove a judge from Meek Mill's long-running criminal case, though one justice said in Tuesday's decision that the rapper can raise the issue again after a hearing next week.
Mill's lawyers have been leveling harsh criticism at Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley for months. They argue she has made inappropriate comments about Mill in and out of court, acting more like a prosecutor than an impartial jurist.
In November, Brinkley ordered Mill to spend two to four years in prison for violating probation from an old conviction on drug and weapons charges. He spent five months behind bars before the state Supreme Court ordered Brinkley to release him on bail.
The judge's attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., has said Brinkley continues to believe she has been fair toward Mill. He said he wasn't surprised by the ruling, since Mill's attorneys "haven't provided a scintilla of good evidence" that the judge is favoring either side.
In Tuesday's ruling, two judges denied Mill's request to replace Brinkley, and three supported it. Another judge, Justice David Wecht, denied the motion but with the condition that Mill can raise the matter anew after next Monday's hearing before Brinkley.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Max Baer wrote that Brinkley should have disqualified herself "in the interest of justice" as her continued involvement in the case "has created an appearance of impropriety that tends to undermine public confidence in the judiciary."
One of Mill's lawyers, Joe Tacopina, said Tuesday's split decision and Wecht's allowance for the issue to be addressed again was a positive sign.
"We remain hopeful that the overwhelming amount of evidence in this case will prompt Judge Brinkley to grant Meek a new trial," he said.
Mills has been fighting to get his 2008 convictions on drug and gun charges thrown out because of questions about the credibility of the arresting officer. The rapper has attracted support from a string of high-powered figures and celebrities, and he was a fixture at Philadelphia 76ers playoff games this spring.