No deal approved for Eakin in ‘porngate’

    Suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin is seen through a window of the court room where a hearing about ethics charges pending against him was held Thursday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

    Suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin is seen through a window of the court room where a hearing about ethics charges pending against him was held Thursday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

    Proceedings took an unexpected turn at a hearing for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin Thursday.

    A deal reached between the Justice and the Judicial Conduct Board in Eakin’s pornographic email ethics case was never heard by the court.

    Although Eakin’s lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, said a deal was reached and filed Monday after private talks between his client, the state Judicial Conduct Board and a mediator, the full Court of Judicial Discipline did not allow lawyers on either side to discuss it at the hearing.

    Instead, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella told the state’s lawyers that they have until next Monday to submit additional documents regarding the case.

    Eakin is accused of taking part in email exchanges that included pornographic images and derogatory remarks. He’s been suspended.

    Costopoulos said he doesn’t know whether the case will now go trial or if a deal is still possible. But he said he came to Pittsburgh on short notice to spell out a deal in front of the court, and said it was a “total shock” to be flatly denied that opportunity by Panella.

    “I didn’t come to Pittsburgh to be read [Rule] 502 and go home,” said Costopoulos, referring to the rule that allows lawyers on both sides to file additional paperwork up to a week after submitting a tentative deal to the court.

    “There’s no mystery here. He sent out 18 emails. He’s accepted responsibility,” Costopoulos said. “We sent out the 18 emails. We shouldn’t have done it; we apologize; we’re never going to do it again. What’s there to try?”

    The confusion surrounding the hearing seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding of whether the Court of Judicial Discipline appointed a mediator to work out a deal — or if the court simply asked a mediator to get involved.

    Costopoulos said he’s ordered expedited transcripts to find out.

    Judicial Conduct Board lawyer Francis Puskiss said at the hearing the state would like to take advantage of the time remaining to file additional documents.

    The latter part of the proceedings devolved into something of a standoff between Panella and Costopoulos. When the lawyer approached the podium to address the court, the judge talked over him to adjourn the hearing.

    Minutes later, proceedings restarted and Costopoulos was called back to the podium; however, his attempts to discuss “why we’re here” were promptly rejected by Panella, and the gavel banged once again.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.