- State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said yesterday that reports of a scuttled plan to add a new member to a body that presides over cases of judicial wrongdoing are evidence of an "old boys' network" in the court system that she has railed against.
Kane called it "an affront to the concept of impartial justice" that is expected of the state Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said Sunday he nominated a woman to the Court of Judicial Discipline but pulled the nomination over questions about Justice Michael Eakin's involvement in the appointment.
The Judicial Conduct Board is investigating and could bring a case against Eakin over his raunchy emails with friends, including an employee of the attorney general's office.
Kane said people who have doubted her claims of an entrenched network should tell people "why they should have faith in the commonwealth's judicial system when two Supreme Court justices show a callous willingness to rig the outcome of a case."
Eakin's lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, said Eakin did not know the nominee, former state Public Welfare Secretary Karen Snider.
"There's a lot of character assassination at these opportunistic press conferences and unsupported news releases," Costopoulos said. "I can tell you that I am a lawyer, and to fix a case you would think that Karen Snider would have to be in on it, which borders on the absurd."
Kane's written statement said the actions by Saylor and Eakin are "exactly the kind of cavalier, business as usual attitude that I threaten by exposing the 'hategate' network."
Kane has released thousands of emails exchanged among employees of her office, lawyers, judges and, in some cases, Eakin. They range from juvenile humor and topless women to pornography and objectionable depictions of women, gays and African-Americans. She announced last week she was hiring a former Maryland attorney general to conduct a comprehensive review.
Kane said "the court's Republicans" - Saylor and Eakin are both Republicans - "are conducting a secret campaign to fix the game."
"Any allegation that the chief justice was part of a plot to manipulate the outcome of a case is patently false," said Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts spokesman Jim Koval, responding to a request for comment from Saylor.
Costopoulos said Snider and Eakin are not acquaintances.
"Justice Michael Eakin did not know Karen Snider and had never met her and was acting upon the resume that was presented to him," Costopoulos said.
Eakin has apologized for his emails but said they did not reflect his character nor have they affected court business.
Kane criticized Eakin for voting in September to suspend her law license, "even though he had a legal and ethical obligation to recuse himself, knowing I had some of his racially- and gender-offensive emails in my possession," she said.
Kane faces possible removal from office by the Senate on grounds her lack of a law license has affected her ability to perform her official duties. Yesterday, a Senate committee proposed a process that would include a hearing Jan. 12, after which the full Senate could take up the question.