The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board sharply criticized Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on Tuesday, saying she had failed to comply with a subpoena aimed at making sure she had turned over all offensive emails sent or received by state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin.
Kane learned of the content of Eakin's emails after discovering that they had been captured on government computers because he exchanged them with a friend who worked in her office.
She had previously given large numbers of Eakin's emails to the judicial board, which described them as salacious, misogynistic, and racist in bringing a misconduct case against him in December. Those emails are the basis of the current judicial disciplinary case against Eakin.
To double-check that Kane had provided judicial ethics officials with all such emails, the board mailed her a subpoena ordering her to turn over by Jan. 10 a complete set of every offensive Eakin message.
She did not respond to the subpoena, the judicial board said. It said Kane was "inconsistent and capricious" in her compliance with its demands.
Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said the Attorney General's Office was trying to determine "if someone dropped the ball" in failing to respond to the judicial edict.
"We are looking into it," he said.
Ardo said the office was puzzled that the board was seeking the emails, saying they had been turned over to the panel.
Kane faces a much more immediate headache: The GOP-controlled state Senate is prepared to vote Wednesday on whether the Democrat should be removed from office.
Top legislators from both parties were unwilling Tuesday to predict the outcome, suggesting the tally will be close.
The Supreme Court temporarily suspended Kane's law license last year after her arrest on charges of perjury, obstruction, and other crimes.
Prosecutors say she illegally leaked grand jury documents to embarrass a critic and later lied about it under oath. Kane has pleaded not guilty.
Republicans in the Senate say the attorney general cannot function effectively as the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official without an active law license. Kane disputes that.
While the Senate is to consider Kane's removal, the state House is scheduled to vote on whether to authorize an investigation that could lead to impeachment. The Senate is pursuing a different legal avenue.
Eakin, for his part, is suspended as he awaits trial on misconduct charges.
The Judicial Conduct Board acts as the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Court of Judicial Discipline, which will hear the case. The court can hold witnesses, such as Kane, in contempt if they fail to respond to its subpoenas.
Eakin's lawyer, William C. Costopolous, said he did not believe any additional emails would surface as a result of the subpoena. But he said the subpoena was a logical move by the court to make sure that after it resolves the case, Kane could not suddenly say, "I have some more."
Eakin is scheduled for trial March 29 in City Hall.
The judicial court will decide whether Eakin violated state ethics rules that govern judges. If he is found guilty, the court could remove him from the Supreme Court and strip him of his government pension.
In a notice Tuesday, the judicial court said the trial will take place in a "high-tech-equipped courtroom" in which the emails in question can be shown on a video screen.
The board's criticism of Kane over the subpoenas was sent to the Court of Judicial Discipline on Feb. 1, but was not immediately made public. It said the subpoena was necessary "to ensure the emails that it had obtained previously were, in fact, the complete set."
Amid finger-pointing over whether Kane provided a complete set of Eakin's emails, the conduct board has come under fire for its handling of the Eakin case.
In 2014, it cleared Eakin of misconduct and termed his emails only "mildly pornographic."
The following year, on the day Kane was arraigned on a fresh perjury charge, she accused the judicial board of whitewashing Eakin's misconduct and ignoring blatantly offensive emails. The board, in turn, accused Kane of not providing it with a full set of Eakin's emails for its initial investigation.
Embarrassed by Kane's accusations, the board threw out its old report and started over, subpoenaing emails anew in October.
This second review led to the pending case against Eakin, a Republican who has served on the high court since 2002.