HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania agency that prosecutes allegations of judicial misconduct said Friday that new revelations about the role of a sitting state Supreme Court justice in the exchange of explicit or otherwise inappropriate emails has prompted it to undertake a second investigation.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board apparently did not have “all of the information” about Justice Michael Eakin’s exchange of emails with state prosecutors or agents when it investigated him last year, chief counsel Robert A. Graci said in a statement. The board dismissed that prior complaint, Graci said.
The new investigation began last week after Attorney General Kathleen Kane turned over more than 1,000 of Eakin’s emails to the Judicial Conduct Board and other state ethics agencies.
Eakin, 66, said last week that he would cooperate with the board’s investigation. He declined comment Friday through an aide at his suburban Harrisburg office.
Kane, whose office last year revealed a pornographic email scandal that has spurred a wave of resignations or firings of state officials, described some of the emails sent to Eakin’s private Yahoo email account as racially offensive and misogynistic pornography.
It was not immediately clear whether some or all of those emails were provided to investigators a year ago, but Graci said the batch appeared to include information that is new to his agency.
“Recent revelations, including news accounts of emails sent to or from Justice Eakin’s personal email account, demonstrate that the board was not provided with all of the information on the attorney general’s servers relating to that account,” Graci said in the statement.
In an interview, Graci would not say what emails appeared to be new or how long the new investigation may take. Once the investigation ends, Graci wrote, the board will decide if there’s probable cause of misconduct and what to do next.
Kane’s spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said Friday that Kane “was under the distinct impression that all the emails had been turned over when requested” last year. He said Kane “will conduct an immediate review to determine if there was, or is, a discrepancy.”
Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state’s top prosecutor, has tied the pornographic email scandal she uncovered to a pending criminal case against her that involves allegations she leaked secret grand jury material to the Philadelphia Daily News and lied about it. She has portrayed herself as the victim of an old boys’ club determined to stop her from disclosing details about the scandal that involved figures in the state’s legal and law enforcement communities.
The board’s 2014 investigation of Eakin began after the Daily News reported that he had received two pornographic emails and one racially offensive email in his Yahoo email address in 2010.
Although Eakin was cleared a year ago, Kane’s disclosures about the exchange of pornographic email by current and former employees of her office has resulted in dozens of them being fired, disciplined or forced to resign from their jobs after being linked to the email circle.
One of Eakin’s colleagues, Justice Seamus McCaffery, retired abruptly last October after a newspaper revealed his role in the email exchanges with state prosecutors and agents.
Kane has said her office reviewed Eakin’s emails anew after it fielded a Sept. 11 inquiry from the Philadelphia Daily News about emails from the Yahoo account. The Daily News has reported on details of purported emails to and from Eakin twice over the past week.
The emails that allegedly involve Eakin were among a batch the attorney general’s office has said it also submitted to the state Supreme Court last fall as the pornographic email scandal began unfolding.
A lawyer retained by the court last year to review the thousands of emails between justices and the state attorney general’s office from 2008 through 2012 reported finding no new improprieties at the time. That lawyer, Pittsburgh-based Robert L. Byer, declined comment Friday through a spokesman at his firm, Duane Morris.
Eakin, a Republican and former Cumberland County district attorney who joined the court in 2002, is one of the five state Supreme Court justices who voted last month to temporarily suspend Kane’s law license, based on allegations in the criminal case.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has hired the Pittsburgh-based law firm Del Sole Cavanaugh Stroyd to look into the matter.
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