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Justice Eakin refuses Gov. Wolf's call to resign, Porngate flares

Pennsylvania plumbs new depths as Gov. Wolf and Justice Eakin clash over smutty emails

THE UNFUNDED confederation of dysfunctional bureaucracies known as Pennsylvania continued to plumb new depths yesterday, with the governor calling for the resignation of a horndog Supreme Court justice who's feuding with an indicted attorney general who's in the crosshairs of a Senate that can't pass a budget.

This is not how the Founding Fathers envisioned the three branches of government working.

Gov. Wolf said in a statement yesterday that state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin should step down as a result of his involvement in the Porngate email scandal - and a recent attempt to clear his name by stacking a judicial ethics panel, as reported Saturday by the Inquirer.

"Justice Eakin is complicit in sharing emails that contain racist, sexist and other derogatory materials, and his actions deserve the utmost scrutiny," Wolf said. "Justice Eakin was also involved in attempting to appoint an individual to the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline, the very court charged with providing that scrutiny."

Yesterday, Eakin's lawyer said he would not step down.

In October, the dormant scandal gained new traction after the Daily News reported on smutty and derogatory emails Eakin had sent or received using his private Yahoo email address.

The emails - some of which were also sent to judges, assistant U.S. attorneys, county prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials - were pulled from the servers of the state Attorney General's Office because, in each email, a sender or recipient worked for the office and used their state email address.

Eakin, 66, a former district attorney in Cumberland County, has been under fire ever since. He has apologized for the "insensitive" content of the emails, but apparently has been working behind the scenes to influence the outcome of the resulting investigation.

Wolf's call for Eakin's resignation came after the Inquirer reported that the justice was part of a ploy to install a new appointee to the Court of Judicial Discipline. That court is expected to rule on whether Eakin violated judicial rules by sending or receiving emails that disparaged women, gays, African-Americans, Latinos and other people who are not heterosexual white men.

"That Justice Eakin saw fit to participate in appointing someone he knew could soon be involved in reviewing his own behavior demonstrates a remarkable lack of judgment," Wolf said.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said yesterday that he recently nominated Karen Snider, a former state Public Welfare secretary, to fill a vacancy on the court, but pulled the nomination over questions about Eakin's involvement in her appointment.

Wolf, a Democrat, said Eakin, a Republican, should also resign because the email scandal raises "the real concern that he could not be impartial in presiding over cases involving the groups of people disparaged in his emails."

The Inquirer reported over the weekend that Eakin had emailed a senior deputy attorney general about giving strippers $1 bills to resolve a "titty-deficit" and joked about inviting two of Eakin's aides on a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for golfing and strip clubs.

"I'll take care of her rooming needs," Eakin wrote of one of his aides.

The state's Judicial Conduct Board and a special counsel hired by the Supreme Court both reviewed Eakin's emails last year and found them largely unremarkable.

But those investigations have been called into question, particularly after the Daily News reported last month that the Judicial Conduct Board's chief counsel, Robert Graci, is a longtime Eakin friend who had played a lead role in his 2011 re-election campaign. Graci stepped aside from the new Eakin investigation after the story was published.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has called last year's email probes part of a "cover-up" aimed at protecting Eakin.

"This man should not, cannot, apparently has never been a fair jurist when it comes to all Pennsylvanians," Williams said last month at a news conference, flanked by clergy and community leaders. "The substance of what we saw in terms of these emails reveals his true heart, regardless of his apologies."

Eakin's lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, told the Associated Press yesterday the justice does not intend to step down and voiced disappointment over Wolf's statement. The allegations against Eakin should be aired in a public forum where the justice can address them and "put this matter to rest," he said.

"Once everything is there, we hope this matter will be concluded fairly and believe that it will be," Costopoulos said. "With that as a given, a resignation is not part of this package."

Wolf has also called for the resignation of state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly leaking confidential grand-jury information then lying about it. Her law license was subsequently suspended by the state Supreme Court.

Kane, a Democrat, has described the criminal charges as retribution for uncovering the trove of pornographic emails while reviewing how her predecessor, Tom Corbett, handled the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case.

Last year, state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery was suspended from the court and then resigned after Eakin said McCaffery had threatened to release damaging emails from Eakin's Yahoo account if Eakin didn't help him in his feud with another justice.

Several former members of former Gov. Corbett's administration also resigned after Kane released some of the emails, including the secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

But if recent history is any guide, Pennsylvania's criminal-justice system hasn't hit rock bottom yet. This scandal is likely to get worse.

Last week, Kane hired Maryland's former attorney general, Douglas Gansler, as a special prosecutor to sift through what she said were thousands of offensive emails among public officials and determine whether any laws were broken.

- The Associated Press

contributed to this report

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