- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice who may be suspended over objectionable emails did not bring the judgeship into disrepute because the “male banter” he exchanged with friends was never intended to be made public, his lawyers said Wednesday.

Justice Michael Eakin’s lawyers filed the response a week after the Judicial Conduct Board accused him of violating judicial and constitutional codes of conduct. He faces a hearing Monday that could lead to his suspension from the bench.

“It is denied that Justice Eakin failed to conduct himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” wrote lawyers Bill Costopoulos and Heidi Eakin, the justice’s wife. They described the content as “private, personal email messages (both sent and received, whether opened or unopened) … never intended by him to be made public.”

They said none of the emails Eakin sent contained pornography.

The content of the emails that the Judicial Conduct Board said Eakin sent or responded to includes a satirical video about busloads of “sluts” crashing in California, including a topless woman; a joke in which a doctor tells a woman who was beaten by her husband, “See how much keeping your mouth shut helps?”; and a joke about Tiger Woods that referred to his African-American and Asian background.

His lawyers acknowledged that Eakin, 67, sent several emails “involving male banter” about trips to strip clubs on annual golf trips.

“These conversations included inappropriate and chauvinistic statements,” his lawyers wrote. He had an exchange with Jeffrey Baxter, a lawyer at the attorney general’s office, “containing inappropriate sexual innuendo about specific women” they knew, they said.

Most of the emails sent to him included multiple recipients, they noted.

“None of the emails sent by Justice Eakin relate, refer to, discuss or even mention any cases before the court, any business of the court or any matters involving the judiciary,” his lawyers said. “Nor does Justice Eakin express personal views about legal or political matters.”

The Judicial Conduct Board alleged Eakin did not respect the court’s nondiscrimination policy, detracted from the dignity of his office and exchanged emails that someone of reasonable sensitivity would find objectionable.

The Republican, a former district attorney in Cumberland County, has served on the high court since 2002.

In summoning Eakin for a hearing in the Northampton County Courthouse next week, Court of Judicial Discipline Judge Jack Panella said the emails could result in “grave damage to the public’s confidence in and integrity of the Pennsylvania judiciary.”

Panella said a hearing is needed because of allegations Eakin used government computers to exchange “sexually explicit, misogynist, racist or homophobic images.”

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