Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin tearfully apologized at a hearing in Easton Monday for trading offensive email in the “porngate” scandal.
Eakin faces a public trial before the Court of Judicial Discipline. This hearing was to determine if he should be suspended from the bench while the case proceeds.
I’m thinking he faces some long odds here.
There’s building outrage at the sprawling scandal, both because of the number of officials involved and the lack of serious consequences for some.
And if you read the 52-page case against Eakin filed by the Judicial Conduct Board, the charging body, you’ll see that he didn’t just dip his toe into the digital cesspool.
Dozens of emails are described in embarrassing, sometimes nauseating detail. And if you look through the emails and attached videos and photos as I have, they have a cumulative effect that, well, just leaves you shaking your head.
It ain’t me, babe
Eakin’s defense is that he received the emails from close friends on a private email account, and that they don’t remotely reflect his values — they’re just crude humor, locker-room talk.
I wasn’t at the hearing, but I spoke to attorney Sam Stretton, who testified on Eakin’s behalf as an expert in judicial ethics.
“Yes, they certainly look immature, and don’t reflect well on his judgment,” Stretton said of the emails. “But you tell me any man or woman who hasn’t gone to a comedian, like Chris Rock, and laughed at off-color jokes. That’s all this is, between friends. A lot of people are trying to make a lot more of it, and there’s nothing more to be made.”
Stretton also made a slippery-slope argument.
“It’s a very dangerous road to go down to get into a judge’s private comments with friends, and try to make it a matter of judicial discipline,” he said.
The Judicial Conduct Board found that whether Eakin used a government computer or not, or intended the emails to see the light day, they’re public now and they undermine the dignity of the court and public confidence in the judiciary.
The Inquirer also reported that two women on Eakin’s staff testified they weren’t offended by emails in which Eakin joked with a friend about sleeping with them during a planned golf trip.
I’ll also note an irony here. Eakin is asking the court not to suspend him while it considers the substantive misconduct case against him from the emails, which could lead to his removal from the court.
In September, Eakin voted to suspend Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license while she awaits trial on charges she leaked secret investigative material.
It was just days after that vote by the state Supreme Court that Kane told reporters she’d sent 1,500 of Eakin’s emails to the Judicial Conduct Board.