Did a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice’s emails violate conduct rules? The state’s high court is leaving that question to a special panel that investigates ethics complaints against judges.
A law firm hired by the court to review hundreds of emails connected to a private account held by Justice Michael Eakin said the messages do not justify action by the court. The firm’s report was released Monday. In an accompanying written statement, the Supreme Court said it would follow the firm’s advice, and let the Judicial Conduct Board finish its investigation of Eakin.
The emails reviewed include photos of nude or topless women and “purported jokes that are insensitive and would be offensive to women, African-Americans, immigrants and other groups.” Eakin was found to have received, sent, or forwarded the messages.
The emails themselves were brought to light by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane after they were flagged by her office. At least one employee of Kane’s office was included as a recipient of each email reviewed by the Supreme Court’s hired firm.
Eakin, who has apologized for the emails, has said their content is not a reflection of his “character or beliefs.”
The Supreme Court’s hired firm has said the emails handed over this year differ in part from justices’ questionable messages handed over by the attorney general last year. That review led the high court to take action, forcing the resignation of former Justice Seamus McCaffery.
The court’s hired firm concluded that the McCaffery situation was different, involving “far broader” misconduct than the allegations against Eakin.