- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania high court justice facing an ethics trial over his email practices wants a court to rule out the pornographic or objectionable messages he received if there’s no proof he read or responded to them.

Justice Michael Eakin’s lawyers told the Court of Judicial Discipline late last week that such emails aren’t relevant and are “undeniably prejudicial.”

He said all judges have probably received unsolicited emails that are offensive, objectionable or even pornographic.

“That is the nature of the digital world in which we live,” Eakin’s lawyers wrote. “But the passive reception of such emails cannot be construed as relevant to demonstrating some sort of nefarious conduct on the part of the receiver.”

They argued that showing them at his trial would amount to “nothing more than a slide show of offensive emails” that would give the judiciary a black eye. A message seeking comment from the Judicial Conduct Board, which is prosecuting the case, was not immediately returned.



Eakin’s trial on allegations he violated conduct standards for judges is scheduled for March 29 in Philadelphia.

His brief said blast emails like the ones at issue in his case were sent to district attorneys, federal prosecutors and 15 other judges.

The justice’s lawyers said they were “loath to name them because, consistent with this memorandum, they had no control of unsolicited emails and did nothing wrong as recipients.”

Eakin, 67, is a former Cumberland County district attorney who has been on the state’s highest court since 2002. The Court of Judicial Discipline placed him on paid suspension in December.

He is accused of bringing the judiciary into disrepute by swapping emails that included bawdy images and content demeaning toward women, gays, Muslims and others. The court last month declined to entertain what Eakin’s lawyer Bill Costopoulos has described as a written agreement with the Judicial Conduct Board that could have resolved the matter. Those terms were not made public.

The Judicial Conduct Board has alleged that the emails Eakin sent or responded to through a “John Smith” private account included a satirical video about a busload of “sluts” crashing, a joke about a battered woman and a “sexually suggestive thread/conversation” about a woman who works in Eakin’s chambers.

He also participated in an email string with golfing buddies about plans to visit a South Carolina strip club. Eakin told his friends he had 50 “ones” and a deficit he wanted cured, using a vulgar term for women’s breasts.

The salacious email scandal has caused dozens of people inside state government, particularly at the attorney general’s office, to be fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined. A fellow Supreme Court justice, Democrat Seamus McCaffery, abruptly retired in late 2014 after his participation became public.

Eakin was cleared in 2014, but his case was reopened after Attorney General Kathleen Kane contacted ethics officials in September with more of his emails. Kane, a Democrat, is currently waiting to get the results of a review of her office’s emails by Doug Gansler, a former Maryland state attorney general.

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