HARRISBURG - An independent review of e-mails among state judicial staff has found that none sent "improper" material other than the pornographic messages sent by former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery.
In a report released Friday, the special counsel enlisted by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille to examine about 4,000 e-mails sent to and from judicial employees and the state Attorney General's Office between 2008 and 2012 found "no improprieties" beyond the e-mails tied to McCaffery.
The report appeared to close one chapter in the scandal over sexually explicit e-mails that has led to firings, resignations, or discipline against dozens of state employees and officials.
McCaffery, a Democrat and former Philadelphia police officer, retired from the bench in October after it was disclosed that he had sent more than 230 e-mails with graphic sexual images or videos. The messages went to at least one agent in the Attorney General's Office, who then forwarded the content to other agents and prosecutors. McCaffery publicly apologized, but described the messages as personal and private e-mails among friends and accused Castille, a longtime rival, of pushing for his ouster.
Robert L. Byer, the Pittsburgh lawyer asked by Castille to conduct the review, concluded, "The problematic e-mails did not extend beyond the previously reported McCaffery e-mails," according to his report, "and the public will be relieved to find the problem was so contained."
A spokesman for McCaffery said he would have no comment on the report.
Byer also said he found that none of the e-mails from the judges contained improper discussions related to court cases and that there was "no reason for any justice of the Supreme Court to be recused from any case."
The e-mails were discovered early this year during Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's review of her office's handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation.
Citing the importance for the public to know how state employers used taxpayers' money and time, Kane released the names this fall of eight officials who she said sent or received the pornographic e-mails over their state-issued accounts during work hours. All eight had worked in the office for her Republican predecessors, including Gov. Corbett, who was attorney general until January 2011.
Several of the eight followed Corbett into the administration after he became governor and resigned their positions in the wake of the scandal.
In his review for Castille, Byer said the only messages containing pornography that he found were from McCaffery, who used a personal account to send them to a small circle of people, including a then-agent at the Attorney General's Office. Byer also said McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapaport, who was on McCaffery's judicial staff, frequently sent out blast e-mails to multiple recipients.
"These e-mail 'blast' messages consisted of such things as jokes and humorous stories, including some 'adult humor'; inspirational stories; items with respect to the military, veterans, or the police; stories about pets and animals; sports; and similar types of topics," wrote Byer, a partner at the Duane Morris law firm.
Some of those blast e-mails from McCaffery and Rapaport went to judges and justices, but contained "nothing of an improper nature," Byer wrote. Still, his report noted, many of Rapaport's messages, sent from her court e-mail address, might have violated official policies prohibiting judicial staff from using office computers to circulate such content.
When the pornographic e-mail scandal exploded in October, there were reports that Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin had received a handful of racist and pornographic content on a private e-mail account. At the time, Eakin, a Republican, said he never viewed the messages and accused McCaffery of threatening to make them public so that McCaffery would not be the only justice tainted in the scandal.
Byer's report said that he found one message that contained pornographic content that had been sent to Eakin's private account, but that Eakin did not reply to or forward it.
"At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a critical distinction between e-mail messages sent from an account and e-mail messages sent to an account," Byer wrote. "No person has control of what others send to his or her e-mail account."