HARRISBURG - A state 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 J. 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 . . . 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 about Tiger Woods that referred to his African American and Asian background; and a joke in which a doctor tells a woman who was beaten by her husband, "See how much keeping your mouth shut helps?"
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," they wrote.
Eakin 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.
The Judicial Conduct Board has alleged that 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."