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December 06, 2015

Pa. Governor Wolf calls for resignation of Supreme Court Justice Eakin

Amid Porngate email controversy, governor says attempt to appoint new justice is a 'ploy'

Politics Porngate
Justice Michael Eakin Contributed Art/Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has called for the resignation of state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin amid concerns that a new appointment to the disciplinary court investigating Eakin's involvement in the Porngate email scandal could sway its decision. 

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor withdrew the nomination of Karen Snyder, a Republican and former secretary of the State Department of Public Welfare, on Saturday after skepticism mounted over the motive behind filling the vacancy days before the Judicial Conduct Board is expected to decide whether to file a formal complaint against Eakin with the Court of Judicial Discipline, PennLive reports.

If appointed, Snyder would have been able to participate in a full panel review of the complaint against Eakin, a potential conflict of interest that would narrow the court's current political gap between four Democrats and two Republicans. There are now two vacancies on the eight-member judicial panel, one of which can be appointed by the Supreme Court and the other by Governor Wolf.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan confirmed the governor's call for Eakin to resign, characterizing the appointment process as "absurd" and adding that the people of Pennsylvania deserve better than Justice Eakin's "reprehensible" behavior.

Last month, Eakin's fellow justices released a report stating they would defer to the Judicial Conduct Board for an investigation into Eakin's controversial emails, which have been deemed "offensive, tasteless, insensitive, juvenile, and repugnant to reasonable sensibilities."

The emails were released by Pennsylvania District Attorney Kathleen Kane, who currently faces perjury and related charges, in an emergency application filed last year urging the court to dismiss a grand jury investigation of her. They surfaced during an investigation into the state's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case.

Eakin, 66, has served on the state Supreme Court since 2002 and resurfaced in the Porngate scandal after voting with his colleagues to suspend the law license of Kathleen Kane. Eakin has said the emails are not a reflection of his true character.

Chief Justice Saylor called Snyder "a candidate with excellent credentials," but added that he shared concerns about Eakin's involvement in her nomination.

Pending a decision by the disciplinary court, Eakin will continue to serve on the state court during the inquiry.