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Clout: Is Pennsylvania run by our crazy uncles?

Porngate has us asking: Who are these man-children running the Commonwealth? How did we get here?

Justice J. Michael Eakin.
Justice J. Michael Eakin.Read moreJessica Griffin/Staff Photographer

SURE, STATE Attorney General Kathleen Kane may not be able to practice law these days, now that the Supreme Court has temporarily suspended her law license.

Getting arrested has consequences, even for the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in Pennsylvania.

But Kane assured us yesterday - just hours after the suspension went into effect - that she can still dish smutty emails with the best of 'em.

Her staff was handing out raunchy discs to reporters in Harrisburg like it was a one-day doorbuster at Venus Video adult superstore. You know, that place down on Passyunk Avenue?

Full-frontal nudity, juvenile humor, mock incest, a nun ogling her own breasts (?), a naked woman on all fours made up like a pig with a "swine flu" caption (??), a joke about using corn on the cob as a sex toy (???), a video clip that appears to show a man having sex with an obese woman to the "Mission Impossible" song (????).

It's all on the latest disc. And there's more yet to be released.

Now, we're starting to get a little burnt out on Porngate, but we're partially responsible for this latest flare-up - see below - so we feel a responsibility to see it through.

The common denominator in all these emails is state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin's personal Yahoo email address, which in most cases is listed as a recipient. He also sent a few, though. The emails wound up on the attorney general's servers because either the sender or one of the recipients worked in the office and used their public email address. D'oh!

Not all of the Eakin emails were made public yesterday. The Daily News reported this month that Eakin's inbox contained jokes and offensive images aimed at Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos and women. Some were not included in yesterday's disc.

"This set of emails is, however, only a subset of the pornographic, misogynistic and racist emails received and sent by Justice Eakin," Kane said in a note provided to reporters with the emails.

The recipients of the emails that we've seen include lawyers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and others in the criminal justice system. Some were sent by a senior deputy attorney general. Others by private attorneys. Kane has turned them over to the state Judicial Conduct Board.

So this scandal isn't over, unfortunately.

Eakin, 66, a former Cumberland County district attorney who was elected to the Supreme Court in 2001, apologized last week for the "insensitive" emails and said "those who know me understand the items chosen for release do not reflect my character or beliefs."

Last year, the Judicial Conduct Board and the Supreme Court's special counsel cleared Eakin of wrongdoing in connection with the email scandal, although there remains much confusion over which emails they actually saw. A new investigation is underway and will hopefully find out who saw what and when.

"At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a critical distinction between email messages sent from an account and email messages sent to an account," the court's special counsel, Robert Byer, said in last year's report that cleared Eakin. "No person has control of what others send to his or her email account."

Fair enough. Lots of people have that crazy uncle or some such equivalent. The man-child at the party who always has one too many Miller High Lifes. The guy with the AOL account who keeps forwarding you those emails about how President Obama was really born in Kenya. The guy who makes boob jokes when kids are in the room.

That guy.

Here's the problem: This sprawling, interminable Porngate scandal, which has already led to the retirement of one Supreme Court justice and the resignation of several top officials in former Gov. Tom Corbett's administration, is starting to make it seem like this whole state - particularly its criminal justice system - is actually run by all our crazy uncles.

Maybe some of them feared Kane and worked behind the scenes to pursue a criminal case that will likely end her career. Maybe they didn't. It sure looks like Kane screwed up big time, either way.

But we can't help but wonder: Who the hell are these guys?

Knowing what's in their inboxes, how can anyone have faith that they're going to get a fair shake if they get caught up in the system as victims or plaintiffs or defendants?

If you're Mexican, will they call you a "beaner" behind your back? If you're African-American, will they write you off as a lazy welfare recipient? If you're a woman, will they crack demeaning jokes over beers after court?

That's what's in the emails.

It's not just Eakin. The day the first Daily News story ran, we got a call from a Pittsburgh lawyer who wanted to know which Dauphin County Common Pleas judges were on the email list.

She didn't want those judges anywhere near her case. We don't blame her.

Because if you find yourself in a courtroom, do you really want a crazy uncle sitting up there in a judge's robe, with all the power of the state behind him?

Scary, when you think about it.

- William Bender

On Twitter: @wbender99


Phone: 215-854-5255