Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on Wednesday applauded the suspension of Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin for his involvement in the "Porngate" scandal.
"This is yet another step in restoring our faith in our justice system," Kane said in a statement following Tuesday's decision by the Court of Judicial Discipline.
The court said Eakin, 67, sent and received offensive email messages, some containing images of naked women and jokes mocking minorities, women, and others, that have "tainted the Pennsylvania judiciary in the eyes of the public."
The suspension will remain in effect until after the court decides at trial whether Eakin, a Republican, violated judicial conduct rules when he exchanged the emails. While on suspension, he will receive his annual salary of $203,409 and benefits.
The emails were from Eakin's private email account, but were captured on government servers because they were exchanged with a friend in the state Attorney General's Office who used his work email address.
The Supreme Court and the Judicial Conduct Board reviewed Eakin's emails last fall. The Supreme Court initially found that the emails were mostly "unremarkable," and the Judicial Conduct Board cleared him of wrongdoing.
"For more than a year, the contents of Justice Eakin's emails were known to officials within the justice system," Kane said. "Some chose to look the other way while others chose to call them 'unremarkable.' None felt they merited any discipline, and all have undermined the credibility in our justice system."
This fall, Kane raised the issue of Eakin's emails anew. She did so shortly after the high court unanimously voted to suspend her law license after she was charged with perjury, conspiracy, and other crimes for allegedly leaking confidential grand jury information. She has pleaded not guilty.
The Judicial Conduct Board held a second review and filed misconduct charges.
Kane said she expects "more of these days" as a special prosecutor she appointed reviews more than one million emails.
"And with each one, we will come one step closer to restoring the credibility of our justice system," she said. "We will be one step closer to transforming our system of justice from the one we have to the one we deserve."