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November 02, 2015

Pa. Supreme Court defers action on colleague's 'pornographic' emails

Issue deferred to Judicial Conduct Board, which is investigating the matter

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin may have sent emails deemed by one report to be "offensive, tasteless, insensitive, juvenile, and repugnant to reasonable sensibilities," but his fellow members on the state's highest court will not take action against him at this time.

The court announced Monday that it would follow Special Counsel's advice to allow the state's Judicial Conduct Board to investigate the emails. The court's decision follows a review of a report it commissioned to review the allegedly "pornographic" emails from Eakin that were sent to the court by embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

"In this report, Special Counsel has recommended against Supreme Court involvement, since the matter does not present the sort of extraordinary circumstances that would warrant the Court’s intervention," according to a statement issued by the Supreme Court.

While the report noted that some emails sent by the justice included jokes making light of rape and sexual assault, negative stereotypes of African Americans, and jokes offensive to Muslims, Latino immigrants, and homosexuals, none of them revealed illegal activity or anything that would undermine the judicial process.

Justices Debra Todd and Correale Stevens issued separate statements agreeing with the decision to defer to the Judicial Conduct Board, with Todd adding that the content of some of the emails left her "disappointed and offended."

Kane's release of the documents containing the emails included an emergency application she filed last year urging the court to dismiss a grand jury investigation of her, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. One court document alleged that Frank Fina and E. Marc Costanza, former state prosecutors who now work for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, manufactured the grand jury investigation to protect their jobs and reputations.

The document alleged the former prosecutors distributed "pornographic, misogynistic, racist, obscene and offensive emails" using state-owned computers for years, the newspaper reported.

Kane faces perjury and related charges for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to the media in an attempt to embarrass Fina and then lying about it. She has been ordered to stand trial on all eight charges laid out by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Kane, 49, the highest-ranking female officeholder in the state, has claimed innocence, saying the charges are a cover-up over her investigation of pornographic emails exchanged by government officials.

Kane was accused by the Judicial Conduct Board in October of holding back some of the emails she had obtained, impeding their current investigation into Eakin. Her law license has been suspended by the Supreme Court.