The union for narcotics agents in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office on Monday dropped its bid for a court order to block any immediate release of the so-called Porngate report, saying it was now confident that the report was weeks away from any release.
Lawrence Moran Jr., a lawyer for the agents, said he now hoped to persuade the office to remove the names of all narcotics agents from any public report.
At issue is a compendium identifying several hundred state employees and others deemed by a special prosecutor to have used government computers to send emails with pornography or other offensive content between 2008 and 2015.
Moran said that many of the agents work undercover and that listing their names could pose a risk to them.
In many cases, Moran said, the agents have already been disciplined by the agency. Making their names public would constitute double jeopardy and violate a part of their contract that forbids management from acting to "embarrass them or demean their dignity," he said.
Moran said he and a senior lawyer with the Attorney General's Office had agreed on Friday to file a joint statement Monday with Commonwealth Court stipulating that there should be no immediate release of the report.
No stipulation was filed Monday, however, after the plaintiffs "agreed to stand down . . . after the Office of Attorney General represented to the court that the report would not be released in the near term," said Philadelphia lawyer Matthew Haverstick, who represents an unnamed official whose name appears in the report.
While the plaintiffs withdrew their request for an immediate injunction, they left on a file with the court a lawsuit arguing for abolition of the entire report.
In a statement Saturday, acting Attorney General Bruce L. Castor Jr. said he decided to delay the report's release before - and independent of - the union's legal action.
In an interview Monday, Castor suggested that those identified in the draft report should be given the opportunity to review the emails flagged by the special prosecutor. That would allow them to make a case to have their names redacted or provide an explanation of the content.
Castor said he would have reviewed all the information and made a decision on a case-by-case basis. "If there was an innocent explanation, I didn't want people to be tarred by the Porngate brush," he said.
Castor may soon be out of the picture. The state Senate on Tuesday is expected to approve the nomination of Bruce Beemer, a onetime top aide to former Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, to replace Castor as attorney general.
Douglas Gansler, the special prosecutor named by Kane before her recent criminal conviction and resignation, has proposed a twofold report.
The main section would name 38 "high-volume senders" who have sent 50 or more troubling emails. An appendix would list several hundred others who sent fewer than 50 emails. No one who merely received a troubling email was to be named.
Ratcheting up the angst in the office, Gansler proposed to tell only the 38 in the first group precisely which emails he had deemed offensive.
Beemer has said that he, too, favors permitting everyone to review the emails in question.