Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice faces disciplinary hearing over emails

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 08, 2015 11:45 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice accused of using state computers to exchange scores of sexually and racially offensive emails with other judges, prosecutors and lawyers over six years was ordered on Tuesday to face a disciplinary hearing.

Justice J. Michael Eakin, 66, a Republican elected in 2001, could face a reprimand, suspension, or removal from the bench if found guilty, the state Judicial Conduct Board said in a statement.

"Justice Eakin engaged in conduct so extreme that it brought the judicial office into disrepute," the official complaint stated.

Eakin's lawyer, William Costopoulos, could not be reached for comment.

Eakin is the second Supreme Court justice to be caught up in a wide-ranging email scandal, dubbed "Porngate" by local media.

Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat who traded offensive emails, was suspended by his fellow justices in October 2014 and later resigned. Several other state officials linked to the scandal have also stepped down.

The trove of offensive emails allegedly exchanged by Eakin, McCaffery and others was discovered unexpectedly during an investigation mounted by Attorney General Kathleen Kane of how one of her predecessors, Tom Corbett, had carried out the investigation of Penn State sexual predator Jerry Sandusky. 

Many of the offensive emails allegedly exchanged by Eakin are graphically described in the 48-page complaint. Some contained female nudity, others ridiculed African-Americans, while still others were misogynistic or homophobic, the complaint showed.

Eakin also allegedly created a fictitious email account in an attempt to disguise his connection to them, said the complaint.

Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has demanded Eakin's resignation.

Last week, Kane appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether laws were broken in the email scandal, which she has held out as an example of the "old-boy culture" she says permeates the state legal system.

In October, Kane saw her law license suspended by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after being charged with illegally leaking grand jury information to a reporter to embarrass a rival and lying about it to another grand jury.

She has contended that her troubles have been caused by enemies worried she will reveal the e-mails.

(Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Michael Perry)